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Orioles' pitching depth a priority as spring training approaches

With spring training approaching, the Orioles are looking to add some veteran depth to their rotation.

The stated goal of the Orioles' offseason every year, even if all of their starting pitchers are returning, is to improve their pitching depth through free agency.

That seems to be the main remaining goal this year, with both executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter citing it as a need as the club approaches spring training.

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"The depth of our pitching is something we're constantly trying to improve on," Showalter said at Saturday's FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center. "You can never have enough. Actually, trading Yovani [Gallardo] does take a little bit of that depth away."

Gallardo's trade to the Seattle Mariners alleviated a problem entering the season with the six starters who ended last year in the rotation competing for five spots, but created a lack of depth. The rotation currently features Chris Tillman, Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez, with Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, and Logan Verrett the top reserves.

Duquette said the team checked in with swingman Vance Worley, who spent 2016 with the Orioles but was nontendered, and made an offer for him to return to the team. But Worley signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals on Saturday.

"We're just looking for some more pitching depth," Duquette said. "When we traded Gallardo to Seattle and acquired Seth Smith, we sent a veteran pitcher and I always like to have veteran pitchers to start the season, and more than what you need. We have some young pitchers who could develop into good major leaguers, but ideally we'd like to have some good veteran depth with our ballclub to start the season. It's always good to have some veteran pitchers who can come in and help your club because you're going to have injuries during the season."

The market is strong with veteran starting pitchers who could be signed to a reasonable deal, including former Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel, left-hander Travis Wood and right-hander Doug Fister.

Given how many pitchers are looking for homes, Duquette said it was possible that the Orioles could sign one to a minor league deal to stash until there's a need, as that wouldn't require them to remove anyone from their 40-man roster.

"That's a possibility this time of year," Duquette said. "We're at 40 and we took a player off the roster this week, and he was immediately claimed. It's kind of tight until you get into spring training and see how your team shapes up, see who you're going to add and who you're going to take off from your current list."

Around the horn: Outfielder Joey Rickard said he's back to swinging a bat and has been fully cleared after a torn thumb ligament cost him the last two-plus months of 2016. … Rookie first baseman Trey Mancini said the signing of Mark Trumbo, which damaged his chances at making the club on Opening Day, reinforced the idea that he needs to hit at whatever level he's playing to make the club. Mancini said he was happy for Trumbo, who took him under his wing last spring and mentored him. … Tillman, who is in his final year of club control, said he'd expect any extension talks to be held closer to spring training, but wants to focus on pitching once the season begins. … Center fielder Adam Jones has two years left on his deal with the Orioles, and said any extension is in the club's hands.

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