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Notes: Buck Showalter expects Ubaldo Jimenez to 'be one of our best five' Orioles starters in 2015

Notes: Buck Showalter expects Ubaldo Jimenez to 'be one of our best five' Orioles starters in 2015
Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez throws to first base against the New York Yankees during the first inning Sept. 23. (Adam Hunger / USA Today Sports)

Despite season-ending injuries to shortstop Manny Machado and catcher Matt Wieters and the late-season suspension of first baseman Chris Davis, this Orioles season's biggest disappointment had to be right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez.

The Orioles signed Jimenez in February to a four-year, $50 million deal, the longest and most expensive contract the club has given to a free-agent pitcher, but he battled through an inconsistent season in which he fell out of the rotation, was demoted to the bullpen and eventually left off the team's American League Championship Series roster.

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The Orioles are on the hook for three more years with Jimenez, so while the club has several options in its starting rotation, helping Jimenez find himself will be a priority next spring.

"I thought he finished strong, and that's good, and I think he knows there's another level he can go to for us," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Friday. "He pitched some good games for us, but we got down to that part of the season — August, I think it was — when we needed to run our best five [starters] out there, and he was very close. But I expect him to be one of our best five next year."

Jimenez was 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 25 appearances (22 starts) last season. He battled with his control throughout the year — he was second in the AL with 77 walks despite making just seven appearances after the All-Star break — but won his last two starts and had a 3.27 ERA in three September appearances.

"The only thing, his walk total was up this year, so obviously, we'd like to see him throw a few more strikes," executive vice president Dan Duquette said.

Spring training dates set

The Orioles' season ended only Wednesday, but spring training is just around the corner.

Pitchers and catchers will report to Sarasota, Fla., on Feb. 18. The first workout for pitchers and catchers is set for the next day, Feb. 19.

The report day for the team's full squad is Feb. 23, with the first full-squad workout Feb. 24.

Showalter said the club in January will hold an offseason minicamp in Sarasota for the second straight season. Last year, at a minicamp geared more toward pitchers, the team signed free agent Delmon Young to a nonroster deal.

Russell on Twins radar

Showalter said he hasn't been contacted by the Minnesota Twins about interviewing bench coach John Russell for their managerial opening since the Orioles' season ended, but he said he still expects Russell to be interviewed.

"If they don't call, then they must have some really good candidates," Showalter said.

Showalter has been a vocal advocate of Russell's candidacy as a big league manager. Russell managed the Pittsburgh Pirates for three seasons, compiling a 186-299 record from 2008 to 2010, and has been a coach for the Orioles since 2011.

All of Showalter's coaches are signed through 2015.

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