Now that we’ve diverted our eyes from Vladimir Guerrero for a few minutes, we can focus on the Orioles’ latest acquisition. They reached agreement late Sunday night with pitcher Justin Duchscherer on a one-year contract that could pay up to $4.5 million in salary and incentives based on number of starts.
The Orioles had become the overwhelming favorites in a relatively short amount of time. They offered him a major league deal and a chance to start. He wanted a major league deal and a chance to start. He also wanted to pitch on the East Coast. And the Orioles resided on a very short list of teams that remained in the running for his services.
It’s not always a complicated game.
The Orioles beat out the Nationals. That should spice up the ol’ beltway rivalry.
Duchscherer can’t be too particular about which division he pitches in and for which team, considering that he’s appeared in five games since 2008 and is coming off hip surgery. He landed on his feet in Baltimore - assuming he passes his physical, which will take place in the middle of the week (weather permitting.) It’s a good arrangement for both sides.
Duchscherer will be paid nicely if he avoids the disabled list. The Orioles aren’t investing a lot if he does not.
Some fans seem a little distracted by the major league offer, wondering why other pitchers have been handed minor league proposals. What makes Duchscherer so special? Well, only president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail can provide that answer and he’s not ready to talk about it.
Just because it’s a major league deal doesn’t mean it’s automatically for big bucks. It just puts Duchscherer on the 40-man roster, and puts the Orioles at their limit (Don’t worry, they can make room for Vlad.)
Duchscherer is the obvious frontrunner in the competition for the final spot in the rotation, which also will include Chris Tillman, Zach Britton and Rick VandenHurk. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’d become the fifth starter. Pitchers will be slotted later in camp. Maybe he moves up. Also, Jake Arrieta isn’t guaranteed a spot, but he’d clearly have to pitch his way off the team.
The Orioles aren’t focused exclusively on their major league rotation. They want to have options at Triple-A Norfolk if a starter is injured or ineffective. They need choices. They need the depth.
They could do a lot worse than having Britton, Tillman and VandenHurk pitching for the Tides. Of course, VandenHurk is out of minor league options and would have to clear waivers and be outrighted, but that’s a complication for a later date. And Tillman certainly will be given every chance to avoid another trip to the International League. He’s been working out like a champ at the Athletes’ Performance Institute in California.
Duchscherer comes with more risks than Kevin Millwood, but the price is right. And their Arizona-based scout, Chris Bourjos, must have seen something in Duchscherer during Friday’s side session that led him to believe that the right-hander could rediscover the form - or come close enough to it - that made him an All-Star in 2008.
Baseball’s circle of life reminds us that Duchscherer made his first major league start against the Orioles on July 25, 2001, in the first game of a doubleheader in Arlington, Texas. He also picked up his first win, allowing four runs in 6 2/3 innings in a 7-6 victory.
I always enjoy checking these old box scores.
Right fielder Chris Richard hit a two-run homer off Duchscherer in the top of the first, but John Parrish gave up five runs in the bottom of the inning. Brian Roberts, starting at shortstop and batting second, homered off reliever Juan Moreno in the eighth. Roberts went 2-for-4, but he also committed two errors.