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Schmuck: Stuck in difficult situation, five things for struggling Orioles to consider

It's understandable that the Orioles front office is in no hurry to run up a white flag on the 2017 season, but it's probably a good idea to start exploring ways to make the most of what has turned into a bad situation.

Let's stipulate that — as discouraging as the past few weeks have been — a midseason turnaround isn't entirely out of the question, and the Orioles are not so far out of playoff contention that they can't get back in the thick of it with a couple of weeks of solid baseball.

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Still, there are some things they can do now to change the subject and some other things they can lay groundwork for if what you're seeing right now is what you'll still be seeing in late July. So, here are a couple of things to do and a few others to think about:

Stop imagining the return of 2013 Ubaldo: The Orioles signed Ubaldo Jiménez to a rich four-year contract based on his terrific performance during the second half of the 2013 season with the Cleveland Indians.

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That guy is not coming back.

Friday night's nine-run meltdown needs to be the last time Jimenez ever starts a game for the Orioles. If Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette feel they are so pitching-poor that he has to go to the bullpen and pitch mop-up relief, so be it. But he has delivered three adequate performances in 10 starts and the other seven have damaged the bullpen.

The Orioles still owe Jimenez about $7 million, which would be a lot of dead money if the club releases him. But what good is keeping him around to do $7 million worth of damage to your playoff hopes? Trouble is, there is no one left at the Triple-A level pitching well enough to deserve a promotion.

Start imagining a world without Manny: No, I'm not suggesting the Orioles preemptively deal Manny Machado at midseason. But they have to figure out what the long game is in regard to a guy who likely will price himself out of Baltimore if he gets to the free-agent market after next season.

The Orioles know what they've got in Machado and they should be able to forecast their budgets for the next two or three years. If signing him to a $300-plus million extension sometime between now and November 2018 is out of the question, that would be good to recognize when other teams start sniffing around next month or during the upcoming offseason.

It also might be nice to drop a respectable extension offer on him right now, if only for public relations purposes. But even I can't really imagine them doing that.

Make a serious extension offer to Schoop: The clock isn't ticking quite as fast when it comes to Jonathan Schoop, but he already has developed into a star-quality second baseman and there appears to be more room to grow. See if he would consider trading the first three years beyond free-agent eligibility for lifetime financial security.

If so, the Orioles could create an added incentive for his close friend at third base to re-sign with the club.

Start shopping Castillo: Welington Castillo has lost some playing time to injury, but he has played well and will be a valuable trade chip in late July, especially if a contender loses a catcher over the next few weeks.

If the Orioles turn things around, there's no reason to move him because he's priced right and is one of the better power-hitting catchers in the game. If they don't, he's all but certain to decline his side of a 2018 mutual option at the end of this season. So, getting a decent prospect or two for him would make sense. The Orioles can get by with Caleb Joseph, Francisco Peña and — in September — top catching prospect Chance Sisco.

Stretch out Scott: Left-hander Tanner Scott, who has a 1.50 ERA in 14 Double-A starts this season, is the only Orioles pitching prospect who currently deserves a shot at the rotation. But he would not be an instant fifth-starter option because the organization has severely limited his innings in plotting a path for him to pitch out of the Orioles bullpen. Necessity should alter that plan. He has been pitching just three innings per outing, so he would have to begin stretching out to be a viable major league starter.

In the meantime, the club has to choose from a list of internal candidates with huge minor league ERAs, which leaves room to wonder why the Orioles didn't grab veteran pitcher Doug Fister on waivers. He had adequate numbers at Triple-A Salt Lake and will be starting Sunday for the first-place Boston Red Sox.

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Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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