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Schmuck: Jeremy Hellickson deal proves Dan Duquette is one stubborn fellow

Orioles baseball operations chief Dan Duquette was true to his word. He has been saying all along that he intended to upgrade the Orioles pitching staff, and he did that late Friday night with the acquisition of veteran starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson.

Give Duquette credit for not giving up on the 2017 season, but this deal — which sent South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, minor league pitcher Garrett Cleavinger and international signing bonus money to the Philadelphia Phillies — probably is too little too late.

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The Orioles slipped to 6 1/2 games back in the crowded American League wild-card race with Friday night's unsightly loss to the Texas Rangers. They have lost three games in a row at a point when they could have crept up on the AL East lead but instead have fallen back to 7½ behind the surging New York Yankees.

The starting rotation remains in crisis and Hellickson should help, but the Orioles have so many struggling starters that it might be hard to decide which one of them to replace.

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Two days still remain before the nonwaiver trade deadline, so there is time for Duquette to do more. Trade speculation has largely centered on closer Zach Britton, who could deliver them another major league player and/or some minor league talent.

If that were to happen, Duquette would be able to make the case that he succeeded in helping the team for both the present and future.

Despite plenty of debate about the wisdom of either trading off veteran pieces or staying the course to avoid the club's first losing season since 2011, Duquette never really figured to cash in his chips and focus on the long term.

He has said from the day he arrived in Baltimore that his goal is to have a winning team every year and he never said anything publicly this season to indicate he was ready to alter that approach.

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Both Duquette and manager Buck Showalter are under contract through next season, so it was illogical to think that they would embark on a long-range rebuilding program without some commitment from ownership beyond the 2018 season.

It's certainly not impossible for the Orioles to rebound over the final two months of the season. They still have a talented — but inconsistent — offensive team and a deep bullpen, so overcoming a 7 1/2-game deficit with 60 regular-season games left is not totally out of the question.

To get to the playoffs, however, probably will require them to win the AL East, since there are five teams ahead of them in the wild-card race. They have plenty of head-to-head games left against the three teams above them in their division, but a comeback of that magnitude will require the rotation to right itself at a time when three veteran starters continue to struggle mightily.

Hellickson can only replace one of them.

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