Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette just completed a conference call with reporters that also included new pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom. He described them as being dependable, durable, qualified major league pitchers. Hammel is viewed as capable of replacing Jeremy Guthrie's innings in the rotation, and Lindstrom will work the back end of the bullpen with experience as a closer and set-up man.
Duquette referenced Jim Johnson as another power arm in the back of the 'pen, so it doesn't sound like the Orioles will move him into the rotation. Duquette wouldn't address rumors that the club is interested in bringing Koji Uehara back to Baltimore - that would be tampering - but he added, "We would still like to strengthen our bullpen between now and spring training."
And yes, Duquette was asked about free agent Manny Ramirez.
"We're aware that Manny is on the market and we've had exploratory talks with his agent and we've seen him work out," Duquette said. "We're still considering the composition of the club and some of the challenges integrating a player like Manny into our ballclub and market. So that's really all I can say about it right now."
Here are some other highlights:
"Jason Hammel is a solid major league starting pitcher and Matt Lindsrom, I believe, really strengths our bullpen," Duquette said. "I spoke to a number of teams about Jeremy Guthrie and realize he's a dependable major league pitcher who's given us 200 innings three years in a row, but we felt like this was a good deal to help our club win."
Duquette also likes that Hammel is under team control through 2013, and Lindstrom's contract includes an option for 2013. Guthrie can become a free agent next winter.
"With his arbitration hearing looming and free agency at the end of the year, we thought this was a good opportunity to make a trade that strengthens the ballclub with a solid major league starting pitcher and quality reliever for the bullpen. Matt has shown he can be a dependable late-inning reliever who's converted over 75 percent of his save opportunities, and Jason pitched effectively in the American League East with Tampa, so he's familiar with the landscape," he said.
"We explored the market for Jeremy knowing he would be a free agent at the end of season and we thought this was the best deal to help our team because we got pitchers back who can help the club this year and in the future. What I really like about both Jason and Matt is they have walk-strikeout ratios approaching 1-to-3. With the addition of these two pitchers and also Chen and Wada - Wada has a 1-to-4 ratio and Chen is 1-to-3 - you'll see that we're adding to the staff with pitchers who have good command and quality stuff, as evidenced by their low walks and higher strikeouts.
"Jason Hammel's got a strong arm. If you take a look at his velocity last year, he averaged almost 93 mph and has been a dependable major league starter. And Matt Lindstrom has a 96 mph fastball, slider and split-finger, and he's been a reliable reliever. I like to have power arms at the end of the game, and we have a couple in Jim Johnson and now Matt Lindstrom."
For fans wondering why Duquette didn't pick up a young prospect or two in the trade, he said, "We didn't have any offers of young prospects for Jeremy, but I'm happy with the pitchers we added. They'll make us more competitive. Both Matt and Jason have been working in Coors Field. I know how challenging it is for pitchers to get their breaking pitches to break sharply. If you look at the home and road records of these guys, both of them pitch very, very well on the road. That's another factor in our thinking. Having met the challenge of pitching effectively in Coors Field will better prepare them to pitch in our ballpark, and I think you may see better statistical numbers from both of these guys."
Duquette doesn't know who will be the opening day starter. We'll have a better idea once we see how manager Buck Showalter sets up the rotation in spring training. Duquette also said it's up to Showalter to decide who closes.
Duquette said he's been focusing on having more options for the rotation, putting pitchers in the bullpen who have "more quality stuff" and having a set of young "reinforcements" in Triple-A who can "continue to develop for the major league team."
"I don't know how it's going to shake out in spring training," he said. "The pitchers we signed from the Japanese League do have options, some of our younger pitchers have options and some of them are out of options. Our goal was to get more pitching depth and be stronger and try to do the right thing in spring training for our team to give us the strongest chance to win. I do like the stuff of several of the pitchers we've added to the team.
"I think overall we've rushed pitchers to the big leagues in the past and that reflected in some of the rough patches that the pitchers hit in the big leagues. The reason they were put in the big leagues is because the need was there. Frankly, I think it's better to spend a little more time in the minors and let the pitchers acquire the skills it takes to be major leaguers. A 5-point ERA isn't good enough to be a competitive big league pitcher, and we've got numerous pitchers on the roster in that area. We're just trying to make the staff stronger so we can be more competitive."
Duquette said he spoke to Guthrie this morning "and thanked him for his work on behalf of the Orioles. He's been very dependable taking his turn in the rotation and giving us 200 innings, and I told him I appreciated that. I wished him good luck with Colorado, and I told him that I appreciated him coming to an agreement on a contract for this year. I thought that was a good result for all parties and I told him I appreciated him coming to terms and signing a contract."
I've heard that the Cardinals inquired about Guthrie during last summer's non-waiver trade deadline. Don't know what they were offering.