SARASOTA, FLA. — Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette will not rule out another free agent acquisition to upgrade the team's offensive lineup, though top remaining hitter Kendrys Morales would require the club to give up its third pick in the June draft.
The Orioles already surrendered their first pick (No. 17 overall) with the signing of starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, who was officially introduced to the media at a televised news conference on Thursday morning. The team also traded its compensation pick (No. 35) for pitcher Bud Norris last season, so signing another free agent who received a qualifying offer from his original club would cost them their third pick (No. 55 overall).
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It's unclear whether the Orioles are willing to lose that pick. Duquette would only say that the club made a conscious decision to sacrifice a big part of this year's draft to put the Orioles in better position to compete for the American League East title.
"Every draft pick has a specific value, and we take into consideration that specific value before we part with the draft pick,'' Duquette said. "And we did that in this case, and we would do that on a case-by-case basis."
Duquette rationalized the decision to take a win-now approach by pointing out the club's recent success signing players on the international market.
"Our expansion of our scouting on the international market and the signings of Carlos Diaz, the first baseman we picked up from Mexico City, and Jomar Reyes, the top Dominican third baseman that we signed, I think that helps us continue to build the quality of the talent depth within our minor league system,'' Duquette said. "So, there are other avenues in signing and bringing players into the organization other than just the draft.
"Now, do we want to be giving up all our draft picks every year? No, that's not something we want to be doing long-term. But we made a conscious choice to do that this year to put the resources into our pitching staff with the core. We thought that was the right choice to make."
Even though the addition of Jimenez — who threw his first bullpen session on Thursday — fills a front-end slot in the starting rotation, Showalter said Thursday there are still 10 or 11 pitchers batting for starting spots. Both recent additions — Jimenez and South Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon — are included in that mix.
"We can create spots or jobs that some people perceive as not being open," Showalter said. "You pitch well and you do what you're capable of and those things seem to have a way of working themselves out. I think we had 10 or 11 guys who are going to do some starting here. That opens up some endless possibilities for Dan as we go forward for our club.
"There's always that thing when you're fighting the allure of taking the right 25 as opposed to what some people think are the best 25," he added. "What might be the right 25 might allow you to be the best over the course of the season too, so I'm sympathetic to that."
Good grooming made easy
Though the Orioles have relaxed their once-strict grooming policy, a couple of players looked dramatically different when they showed up at the complex on Thursday.
Nick Markakis, who arrived at camp with big hair and a long beard, used a two-tiered approach to get into compliance. He trimmed down to a light beard and medium haircut a few days ago, then showed up Thursday clean-shaven and completely shorn.
Newcomer Jemile Weeks, who arrived with long dreadlocks, also trimmed them back above his shoulder to conform to team policy before the first full-squad workout on Wednesday, then — like Markakis — decided to go with a clean-cut look before taking the field on Thursday.
Weeks said he hasn't had his hair that short in six or seven years.
"I just decided to take it off,'' Weeks said. "I just didn't like the short look. The team policy is above the collar, but that just wasn't comfortable … I thought about doing it a few months ago, so the team policy kind of gave me a nudge."
Gonzalez back on normal schedule
Miguel Gonzalez said his back felt fine Thursday morning after a limited bullpen session on Wednesday. He'll be back on a regular schedule starting on Friday.
"I'm moving a lot better, no problem,'' he said. "I'm ready to go … regular bullpen … 100 percent."
He felt a twinge in his lower back early in camp, but said that he was never concerned that it was anything serious.
"I've had it before,'' he said, "so I knew exactly what I needed to do."
Gausman's sweet sacrifice
Top pitching prospect Kevin Gausman light-heartedly confirmed yesterday that he is "off donuts,'' so it's probably good that his teammates did not repeat last year's prank and fill his locker with hundreds of them.
Gausman's quirky claim to fame when he arrived from LSU was his habit of eating several small donuts between innings during his college starts.
"I didn't do that last year,'' Gausman said. "I had to cycle off. Originally, it was like four every inning. Now it's four every day. Next week it'll be three. Eventually, I'll be clean."
Around the horn
Thursday's workout included pitchers field practice drills that included work on bunt plays and comebackers. … The pitchers who threw bullpens on Thursday were Norris, Darren O'Day, Tommy Hunter, Evan Meek, Ryan Webb, Troy Patton, Wei-Yin Chen, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, T.J. McFarland, Tim Alderson, Brock Huntzinger, Nick Additon and Tim Berry.