Duquette on Jurrjens, the roster, the division and more

SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette stopped by the media workroom earlier today and touched on a variety of topics.

Immediately, he was asked about former Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens, who’s agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Orioles. Jurrjens completed his physical last week, and we’re still waiting for an official announcement.

“We’re still working on that issue,” Duquette said. “We don’t have that resolved yet. We hope to get it resolved in the next couple of days.

“This is an issue that just takes a little bit more time on the process, but hopefully it will get resolved.”

Reminded that it’s been three weeks since news broke of the agreement, Duquette smiled and said, “Is that how long it’s been? Time flies, doesn’t it? We should have it resolved in the next couple of days.”

What about the possibility that the Orioles tweak the agreement, perhaps adjusting the guaranteed money?

“I don’t know how it’s going to get resolved,” Duquette replied, “but I hope it gets resolved here soon.”

Duquette said Trayvon Robinson’s situation will be resolved by Thursday. The Orioles designated Robinson for assignment on Friday to make room for pitcher Todd Redmond on the 40-man roster.

Duquette described the 2013 Orioles as being a “much more mature team,” among other things.

“The good news is that we have a much more established team and we have a team that had the experience of going through a pennant race, also playing in the playoffs, and so I think it’s a much more mature team and it should be a more competitive and confident team because they proved to themselves that they can compete against the best teams in the league,” Duquette said.

“We have some things to build on that we can build on because we had a good year last year, but this is 2013. This is a new group of players. This is a new season. We have new challenges. This is effectively a new team. But I can tell you this: The consistency of the leadership from the manager and the work ethic of the players instilled last year, that should carry over. Those all should be pluses. The leadership that we have within the team with Matt Wieters, with Adam Jones ... I think Wieters caught more games than just about anybody in the American League. Jones, you know, played more innings than any outfielder in the league. Hardy caught more ground balls than any infielder in the league. That’s leadership to me. Those guys are out there every day doing their job.”

The Orioles didn’t sign Miguel Gonzalez last year until the first week of March. Could there be some late additions to the roster this spring?

“We’re always looking to add to our ballclub,” Duquette said. “When there are opportunities and players are available to us, we will continue to add them. So, I guess the answer to that is ‘yes.’”

Asked about Brian Roberts’ health, Duquette replied, “Brian’s been out here and he’s been working diligently and doing all his baseball activities, so he should be ready to go.”

Duquette confirmed that Tsuyoshi Wada is in a long-toss program.

“He’s continuing his rehab and doing his throwing progression part of his rehab. Right now, he’s in the long-toss stage,” Duquette said. “It generally takes at least a year to get into competitive situations from surgery, and his surgery was in May, so he needs to go through the full throwing progression.

“His return to the team will be during the season. It won’t be at the start of the season.”

Luis Ayala is expected to leave camp and pitch for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.

“I’m told he’s on the WBC roster and he wants to pitch for Mexico,” Duquette said. “I don’t think we’ve talked to him about it, but he’s made clear that’s his intention.”

Duquette called the American League East “a tough playground.” That’s a new one for me.

“You have to have a good team to be competitive in the American League East year in and year out,” Duquette said. “The Yankees are always competitive. The Red Sox have had a lot of success in recent years. Tampa Bay has a competitive team every year. And Toronto, they reloaded, so they can be competitive. It’s a dogfight.

“I worry more about our ballclub, but I like the returning nucleus of our ballclub. Our bullpen is back and that was one of the strengths of the team, and I like some of our young pitching to really come forward and establish themselves this season. This is a young team that should continue to mature. When I say ‘young team,’ the core players are 26, 27 years old, and with more experience they should continue to mature and improve.

“The other part of our team that I thought improved a lot was our on-base capability. When Buck (Showalter) put Nick Markakis in leadoff, Nick was one of the best leadoff men in the business. And then when Nate McLouth replaced Markakis at leadoff when he got hurt, McLouth did a great job. This team, we’re returning with good pitching and good defense and we hit more home runs than any other Oriole team but one. So, we had the pitching, the defense and the power.

“I’m hoping that with the experience that we got last year, we got a better on-base capability and it will be pitching, defense and three-run homers, right? I hope that’s the identity we can adopt based on experience. But (Nolan) Reimold’s return will certainly be helpful to us. Nick Markakis, the guy has a .295 lifetime batting average. He’s a good addition to any team.

“Their health would be a good development for the team, but also the maturation of the players. If Manny Machado comes and has a good season, that would be a plus for the team. Manny Machado has shown the capability to be an everyday ballplayer, to hit both left- and right-handed pitching. Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones - that’s a legit middle of the order. You’ve got two guys who hit 30-plus homers last year returning.”

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