Returning Rule 5 outfielder Aneury Tavarez to the Boston Red Sox, which the Orioles were forced to do Sunday, was a decision the team agonized over but couldn't avoid, team officials said.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette said the Orioles "exchanged a number of names" with Boston as possible trade pieces, but "under different circumstances, we might have given up more in the trade to acquire him."

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"We tried to work out a trade and didn't want to really trade Manny [Machado] for him," manager Buck Showalter said. "I'm just kidding, but we looked a lot. We liked him, just like we did when we took him in the Rule 5, and tried to make every step possible up until 8 or 9 o'clock this morning, Dan and I were looking at ways to keep him. But I think with a couple emergences of some things, we must have talked about six or seven variables to that. And one was how you would acquire him.

"We felt strongly that he had a chance, and still do, and Boston does too because they took him back. You aren't always able to keep him. We've probably been way ahead of the curve. We've still got one of them and we felt like coming out of the draft, we'd end up keeping one of them. [Anthony] Santander is still very much a part of it. We like him."

Tavarez hit a solid .292/.382/.396 with a home run and eight stolen bases in spring training, but the team's major league outfield situation couldn't accommodate him, even in a limited role. The team put him on waivers Wednesday, and no team claimed him, so a return to Boston was inevitable.

The Orioles will open the season with seven outfield possibilities — Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Seth Smith, Hyun Soo Kim, Joey Rickard, Trey Mancini and Craig Gentry. However, Duquette said the presence of a comparable player in the minor leagues, outfielder Cedric Mullins, made a Tavarez trade less appealing.

"I've got to tell you, we were so impressed with Cedric Mullins coming into spring training and doing what he did that we have him in Double-A," Duquette said. "He's going to start the season in Double-A, so we can take a look at him. He might be able to do the job that we had in mind for Aneury Tavarez later in the season. You never know."

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