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Orioles optimistic about Jimenez bounce back and Gausman break out

Ubaldo Jimenez was 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in his first season in an Orioles uniform.
Ubaldo Jimenez was 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in his first season in an Orioles uniform. (Adam Hunger, USA Today Sports)

SAN DIEGO — Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette has said repeatedly this week that he's reluctant to trade starting pitching.

Right now, he has six starting candidates and likely can go about eight deep in the rotation.

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There are two big questions regarding the rotation going into next season: What should the Orioles expect from talented right-hander Kevin Gausman and what does the club do with struggling veteran right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez?

Jimenez, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal in February, was 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA over 25 outings (22 starts) in 2014. He issued 77 walks in 125 1/3 innings, posting an unsightly 5.5 walks per nine innings.

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Orioles manager Buck Showalter said this week that he expects Jimenez to bounce back in 2015. Jimenez made a late-season adjustment to his delivery -- he doesn't raise his hands over and behind his head anymore -- that showed some signs of promise going into next season.

Still, the Orioles are willing to listen to teams interested in Jimenez. But his contract, which has three years remaining, will be difficult to move.

Asked about the possibility of dealing Jimenez, Duquette said: "I think probably the best thing we can do is get him to throw strikes more consistently, and that would be good for everybody."

Then there's Gausman, who will compete for a rotation spot in the spring. Showalter said the Orioles won't penalize Gausman because he has options and will steadily increase his inning limits.

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Gausman was 7-7 with a 3.57 ERA in 20 major league starts last season. He held opposing hitters to a .234 average over his last eight starts.

Duquette said he believes Gausman is on the verge of a breakout season.

"Gausman is good," Duquette said. "If you look at his peripherals, it looks like he's ready to have a breakout season as a starting pitcher. Low walks, high strikeouts. Keeps the ball in the ballpark. He looks pretty good. We'll see his innings limit has been extended each year. He's right on schedule to have a good year."

** The Orioles, who are looking to replace left-hander Andrew Miller in the bullpen, had interest in left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo. But Bastardo was traded from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday.

Bastardo was 5-7 with a 3.57 ERA in 64 innings last season.

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