The returning Orioles pitchers welcome the unspoken message to them.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette spent the offseason focusing on starting pitching, acquiring left-handers Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada and Dana Eveland.

That makes for a crowded staff. As of now, the Orioles' list of starting rotation candidates is in double digits, which will create intense competition come spring training.

"I think they know it's time to you-know-what or get off the pot," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said at Saturday's FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Righty Jeremy Guthrie goes into the spring as the team's unquestioned ace, but how the rotation spots fall after that is up in the air. Showalter has said that last year's starting pitchers might have gotten their spots too easily. Now they will have to earn them. No spot is guaranteed.

"If you don't, you're going to get lost in the shuffle with the guys we've brought in," lefty Zach Britton said. "Guys have to go in there thinking they have to win a job. We know we've got to compete, too. I know I have stuff I have to work on. I think it's beneficial to me and to the team that there's that competition."

Britton, as well as righty Jake Arrieta and lefty Brian Matusz, struggled with inconsistency or injuries — sometimes both — but they said hearing news that the Orioles were adding more starting pitching served as offseason motivation.

Matusz spent the offseason working out with former Orioles outfielder and new team special assistant Brady Anderson. Arrieta was rehabilitating after surgery in August to remove a bone spur from his right elbow.

"This is what we all need," Matusz said. "It's great to have that going on. It's a long season. It's important to have depth. You've seen in the past, it's tough pitching in the big leagues. It's important to have that depth and that competition so that we're all pushing each other to get better every day."

Returning Orioles righties Tommy Hunter — who dropped nearly 20 pounds working with Matusz under Anderson — Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman will also be competing for rotation spots.

"I think that's a good thing," Arrieta said. "The most competition there is, I think that's going to bring out the best in a guy. We've got a great group. We continue to build the relationships from last year on and off the field. We're all pulling for each other."

Recommended on Baltimore Sun