Duquette on Guthrie, new additions, filling the rotation, Manny and more

executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette spoke to the media on a conference call this afternoon to talk about the club’s trade of right-hander Jeremy Guthrie to the Rockies for righties Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom. Duquette was also asked about the Orioles' interest in Manny Ramirez and scuttlebutt that the Orioles turned down the addition of Eric Young Jr. in the deal because there was no wiggle room on the 40-man roster.

Here are some of the highlights of the conference call:

On trading Guthrie:

“We spoke to a number of teams about Jeremy Guthrie, and we recognize Jeremy’s been a dependable pitcher for us, giving up 200 innings pitched for the last three years in a row, but we think this is a good deal to help our team and to help our club win because we are essentially replacing Jeremy’s innings in the rotation with Jason Hammel’s. And we think the addition of Matt Lindstrom, who has a power fastball, strengthens our pitching staff overall. We like the like the trade because it gives the Orioles an option beyond 2012. Based on Jason’s service time, he’d be eligible to come back to our ballclub for 2013. Also, Matt has an option in his contract that is team-exercised for the 2013 season.  With arbitration looming for Jeremy Guthrie and also free agency at the end of the year, we thought this was a good opportunity to make a trade that strengthens our ballclub with a solid major league starting pitcher and a quality pitcher in the bullpen. Matt has shown to be a dependable late-inning reliever, converting on over 75 percent of his save opportunities. Jason pitched effectively in the American League East with Tampa, so he’s familiar with the landscape."

On how Hammel will be used:

“If you take a look at his average season for the last three years, Jason has pitched 177, 178, 170 innings. Most of those innings have been as a starting pitcher. He started 30 games in ‘09 and ‘10 and started 27 last year. I’m looking for Jason to give us some dependable innings. Of course, that will ultimately be decided by Buck and the coaches in the spring, but Jason gives us a solid major league starter.”

More on what made Hammel and Lindstrom attractive:

“We explored the market for Jeremy, knowing he would be a free agent at the end of the season. We thought this was the best deal to help our team because we got pitching back that can help our ballclub this year and can help our ballclub in the future. What I really like about both Jason and Matt is that they have walk/strikeout ratios approaching 1 to 3. … With the addition of these two pitchers and also [Wei-Yin] Chen and [Tsuyoshi] Wada -- Wada has a 1 to 4 ratio and Chen has a 1 to 3 -- you will see that we’re adding to the pitching staff with pitchers that have good command and quality staff as evidenced by the low walks and high strikeouts.”

On trade coming on day of Guthrie’s arbitration hearing:

“I think there was a fair agreement reached on Jeremy’s contract.  The trade, I think, yields us a good return for the Orioles. Jason Hammel’s got a strong arm. If you look as his velocity last year, he averaged 93 miles an hour, and he’s been a dependable major league starter. Matt Lindstrom has got a 96 mph fastball, a slider and a split-fingered [fastball]. He’s a dependable late-inning reliever. I like a power arm at the end of the game, and we have a couple for Buck in Jim Johnson and now Matt Lindstrom. I like the manager having that kind of strength in the bullpen to help lock down the games [in which] we have a lead in late in the game."

Who will be leading candidate for Opening Day starter?

“I don’t know the answer to your first question as far as who would be the Opening Day starter. That would be an appropriate question for Buck, and I’m sure that when you see how he sets up his rotation in spring training, you’ll see who the candidates are.”

On whether Lindstrom will be a candidate for a closer role:

“I like the having two power arms [with Jim Johnson] at the end of the game. The manager’s going to have to decide how to utilize these pitchers. I am encouraged by adding Matt Lindstrom because of his capability to convert on saves. He’s had the experience as both a closing pitcher and also as a setup man. I just think that strengthens our ballclub.”

On whether Guthrie would have been traded if they had settled on a 2012 salary with Guthrie earlier:

“That’s speculation, and I can’t really speculate on that. I think that settling at our figure was an option unless we went to the arbitration hearing. The way this was settled, I think was good for all the parties. We knew if we could get a reasonable deal with Jeremy, we could make this trade to strengthen the ballclub.”

On whether there were trade options to acquire prospects versus major league players:

“We didn’t have any offers of young prospects for Jeremy, but I am happy with the pitchers we’ve added because I think they’ll make us more competitive. One of the upsides of this trade that could happen is that both Matt and Jason have been working at Coors Field, and I know it’s very challenging for pitchers to get their breaking pitches to break sharply pitching in Colorado. When you look at the home and road records for these guys, they both pitch very, very well on the road. That was another factor in our thinking, that having met the challenge of pitching effectively in Coors Field, it will better prepare them to pitch in our ballpark. I think you’ll see some better statistical numbers from both of these guys."

On the Orioles’ interest in Manny Ramirez:

“We’re aware that Manny is on the market, and we’ve had some exploratory talks with his agent. And we’ve seen Manny work out, but we’re still considering the composition of this club and some of the challenges of integrating a player like Manny into our ballclub and market. So that’s really all I can say about it right now.”

On discussion that there was talk of acquiring Eric Young, Jr. in the deal:

“We can’t speculate on players that are on other teams’ rosters. That’s against the rules, so I couldn’t respond on your question about Eric Young. We are trying to build a team here by strengthening our pitching, and I believe we’ve done that with the pitchers we’ve added today [and] the signings of Wada and Chen. My hope is that we will be able to find able other major league pitchers from the pitchers we’ve signed and invited to spring training. I think our roster composition is stronger now because we’ve been adding. This is the first major trade, but I believe we added a starter back and we got a dependable bullpen man.”

On the abundance of starting pitching candidates:

“The pitchers we’ve added, a lot of them have background in starting. With the need for consistent innings in the rotation, I thought it would be better to bring in a number of starting pitchers and then see who the strongest pitchers are and put them in the rotation, and then some of the other pitchers would be available to help us in the bullpen. Then there’s another group of pitchers who we could send down on options and continue to develop them in Triple-A. My focus was to address all three areas -- to try to get more options for us for starting pitching in the big leagues, some pitchers in the bullpen who have quality stuff and then a bed of reinforcements, or younger pitchers, at Triple-A that we could develop for the major league team.  ... I think overall, we’ve rushed some pitchers to the big leagues here in the past. I think that was reflected in some of the rough patches the pitchers had in the big leagues. The need was there, but frankly, I believe it’s better to spend a little bit more time in the minors and let the pitchers acquire the skills it takes to be major leaguer. A 5.00 ERA is not good enough to be a competitive major league pitcher, and we have a number of pitchers on the roster in that area. I’m just trying to make the staff stronger so we can be more competitive."

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