Orioles continue their search for starting pitching

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette remains in talks with the agent for left-hander Joe Saunders - just one of the names linked to the club today.

Duquette met once with Saunders’ representative, Greg Genske, during the Winter Meetings in Nashville, referring to it as a “preliminary” discussion. There has been additional contact and negotiations continue, as the Orioles seek to add a veteran starter to their rotation before spring training.

Saunders reportedly had an offer on the table from the Minnesota Twins, among other teams.

Saunders, 31, went 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts after the Orioles acquired him from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 26 for reliever Matt Lindstrom. He was credited with the win in the wild card game against the Rangers, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings. He also held the Yankees to one run in 5 2/3 innings in the American League Division Series.

“I don’t know how to characterize these things,” Duquette said. “It’s a process. Sometimes, it comes together, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m reluctant to talk about these things while we’re in the process. There’s not a lot I can tell you.”

FOXSports.com is reporting that the Orioles are one of the teams expressing interest in Detroit Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello, who was 10-12 with a 4.59 ERA in 31 starts this season, with a league-leading 226 hits allowed in 176 1/3 innings.

Porcello, who turns 24 on Dec. 27, is 48-42 with a 4.55 ERA in 120 starts over four major league seasons. He placed third in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2009.

Porcello has gone 14-9, 10-12, 14-9 and 10-12 in those four seasons. If the pattern holds, he’s due to post a winning record in 2013. Something along the lines of 14-9.

Also, ESPN’s Buster Olney and Jim Bowden have speculated today that free-agent right-hander Kyle Lohse would be a logical fit for the Orioles. Bowden ranked them first on his list of the top five teams that make the most sense for Lohse. However, there’s the question of how much Lohse is seeking and how much the Orioles are willing to spend on pitching.

Lohse, 34, is a top free-agent pitching target with some of the bigger names now off the board. He was 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 33 starts with the St. Louis Cardinals this year and is 30-11 over the last two seasons.

It’s important to note that Lohse turned down the Cardinals’ qualifying offer of $13.3 million, so he’d cost the Orioles their first-round pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

Duquette doesn’t comment on specific players, especially ones under contract with other teams, but he said, “We could always use good pitching.”

“Those are some pretty qualified names you’re talking about,” he said.

Duquette indicated that the Orioles are looking to add one more starter. It could come down to who agrees to a contract first, or which team is first to accept a trade proposal.

“I don’t know that we’re looking for multiple candidates,” he said.

As for the perception among some fans that the Orioles are “standing pat,” Duquette said, “We’re exploring a number of things every day, and when we get a deal we like, we’ll move on it.”

Asked if the Orioles could do something before Christmas, Duquette replied, “I don’t know. I think there will be more deals (in baseball) because there are still a lot of players on the market. I think there will be more between now and Christmas Eve, in general.

“We may, we may not, but I think there will be more deals because of all the players available on the market.”

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