Is pitching a fit for Orioles?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The local media and Orioles PR representatives will gather today for the annual managers luncheon. We eat, we chat, we keep our notepads in our back pockets. Tape recorders are turned off. Reporters also are instructed to power down their cell phones, a request that largely goes ignored.

Conversations are off the record, but nuggets of news can be stored away or used as background information at a later date.

Outfielder Nate McLouth reached agreement on a one-year, $2 million contract with the Orioles during last year's luncheon, causing me to miss the salad course and start late on the entrée. First world problems.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette will remain in his suite, perhaps meeting with more agents and executives. Continuing his search for a starting pitcher and at least one left-handed bat.

Duquette told us yesterday that he's got a better feel for the pitching market since arriving at the Swan and Dolphin Resort. Here's my guess: It's still pricey.

Bartolo Colon reportedly is seeking a two-year deal. The Orioles, who have met with his agent, most likely want to sign him for one.

And so it goes.

Duquette was asked this week for this thoughts on how the market for starting pitchers has developed.

"That market moved pretty quick because there's a lot more teams chasing fewer pitchers," he said. "I've got to tell you, Scott Feldman got a terrific contract. Last year, he signed for $6 million and he got five times that this time around. And the left-hander that signed with Oakland, (Scott) Kazmir, this time last year he was down in Puerto Rico looking for a job. It's a robust market for the starting pitchers."

Kazmir may be the poster child after signing with the Athletics for $22 million over two years. The Orioles weren't interested. Feldman's deal also raised plenty of eyebrows at these meetings. That's a significant sum for a pitcher who's largely viewed as a No. 4 at best. But as the New Year approaches, teams who keep trying to turn back the clock may be dropping the ball.

(See what I did there?)

Is it possible for the Orioles to make a huge upgrade to their pitching staff without spending for it, without keeping up with the going rate?

"Well, if we can develop a pitcher, like a (Kevin) Gausman...," Duquette said. "That's why we brought in Dave Wallace, to help us accomplish that. That's why we went and got Dom Chiti, to help us accomplish that. If we're going to be successful, we're going to have to develop additional starting pitchers to come up through our farm system to make an impact on our major league team. That's where the Orioles are going to get value, from their pitching program."

This quote makes it appear that the Orioles will stick with their current crop of starters, but Duquette keeps telling reporters that he's trying to add another piece to the rotation. That's why his club is in on Colon and checked on Bronson Arroyo, Tim Hudson, Johan Santana and Jason Hammel, among others.

Just trying to make sense of it all before the dessert course.

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