Because You Asked - State of the Union

The Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Jan. 16, which probably has readers of this blog pacing the floor. Settle down. I’ll give you another sequel while you wait.

Yes, it’s the latest installment of “Because You Asked,” where I attempt again to answer these same questions. It’s our own little School of Roch dance.

Who wants to do the bump?

Never mind. I’ll let you supply the questions.

What’s the Orioles’ biggest priority - starting pitcher, closer, second baseman or DH?
Starting pitcher, judging by the quotes from executive vice president Dan Duquette that I posted on Saturday. Another bullpen arm also is on the list. Second base appears to be lowest on the wish totem pole, which bodes well for Ryan Flaherty and Jemile Weeks.

Has A.J. Burnett decided whether he wants to pitch in 2014?
Apparently not. I hope he isn’t this slow while ordering off a menu. The Orioles definitely have interest in Burnett and reached out to his agent. They could get him on a one-year deal. But the Pirates want him back. That is, if Burnett wants to pitch. Maybe he’s still checking out the specials.

Any updates on Bronson Arroyo?
None. The Orioles have been interested in him since the free agent market opened for business. If he’s insisting on a three-year deal, he’s probably not going to find it in Baltimore. It’s always come down to the contract.

Any chance the Orioles make a run at Masahiro Tanaka?
Are we still talking about this guy? I’ve emptied my holster shooting this one down. Maybe I’ll just throw my gun at it and run away. Duquette already has stated that the Orioles won’t get involved in the posting process. And does anyone think they’d spend the $20 million fee and then shell out $150 million or whatever it’s going to cost a team to sign him?

bundy-throwing-sidebar.jpgDo you have an update on Dylan Bundy?
I average at least one of these a week. Nothing beyond what I’ve written about the light-throwing program that he started last month. He will expand the distance later this month. The Orioles will check him out next week at their mini-camp in Sarasota, but so far he’s ahead of schedule. Doesn’t mean he’ll be pitching for the Orioles before the All-Star break. Not a chance. But any appearance in the second half would be welcomed. He’ll probably stay back at extended spring training when they break camp and eventually be assigned to one of the lower-level affiliates.

Have the Orioles made any progress in contract extension talks with Matt Wieters and Chris Davis?
Nope. Right now, they’re more focused on trying to sign their six tendered players to 2014 deals, including Wieters and Davis, and avoid arbitration hearings. The sides will exchange figures on Jan. 17 if agreements haven’t been reached. Duquette is spending part of this week working on it. The other four unsigned arbitration-eligibles are Tommy Hunter, Bud Norris, Brian Matusz and Troy Patton.

How do you feel about Manny Machado posing with Alex Rodriguez at a Jay-Z concert?
I’m just relieved that Barry Bonds didn’t photo bomb them. I guess A-Rod chose Machado over former Oriole LJ Hoes. You know... 2 Many Hoes. I’m sure the Orioles have A Million and One Questions about it (OK, I’ll stop). I retweeted the photo and felt the angst of Orioles fans, but let’s assume that Machado is making smart decisions. And hey, his knee must be feeling good. One person in the organization made that observation while trying to put a positive spin on it. He also noted that the club can’t choose Machado’s friends.

Have the Orioles announced when tickets for FanFest will go on sale, or any other details?
It’s coming later this week. There’s still time for that big free agent signing. And yes, I’ll pose for photos and sign autographs if you really want one.

Joel Hanrahan is supposed to throw for teams in spring training. Think the Orioles will watch him?
Sounds like a safe assumption, considering that they’ve already checked his medical records. It doesn’t cost anything to watch him throw. He won’t be ready to pitch on opening day, but he could close at a later date.

Why do you keep saying that there’s no point in discussing Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana?
Because I’m a dream killer. And because the Orioles don’t hand out four- and five-year contracts to free agent pitchers. This isn’t breaking news. It’s just heart-breaking for fans who want the team to seriously upgrade the rotation. Also, Jimenez and Santana will cost a first-round pick.

Are the Orioles willing to give up that pick?
It’s not completely out of the question, but they’re still extremely reluctant to do so. Not everyone in the organization cherishes that pick, the 17th overall in the draft, but it seems pretty important to Duquette.

Give me your rotation on opening day.
That’s not a question.

What’s your rotation on opening day, jerk?
That’s not polite. It’s too early to say, since Duquette is trying to add another starter. For now, go with Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris. I’ll continue to insist that left-hander Zach Britton would be the early favorite for the fifth spot because he’s out of options. There’s no way that he’d pass through waivers.

Who’s the backup catcher?
Steve Clevenger unless the Orioles sign or trade for someone else. I’d expect him to beat out Johnny Monell and David Freitas. I’d also expect Caleb Joseph to open the season at Triple-A Norfolk and Michael Ohlman to be assigned to Double-A Bowie.

If Mike Mussina is inducted into the Hall of Fame, does he go in as an Oriole or a Yankee?
First of all, I’d be surprised if he makes it this year, simply because there are so many qualified candidates on the ballot. I voted for him, but lots of others did not, judging by the early returns. The announcement will be made at 2 p.m. Wednesday on MLB Network. Players have input on which team they represent, but the Hall of Fame makes the final decision. Wade Boggs wanted to go in as a Devil Ray. Gary Carter wanted to go in as a Met. Didn’t happen. Mussina spent 10 years with the Orioles and eight with the Yankees. He didn’t win a World Series or Cy Young Award with either team. The Hall probably would choose the Orioles, who drafted and developed him.

The Orioles can draft and develop pitchers?
Now who’s being a jerk?

Any predictions on the Academy Awards nominations?
I don’t go to many movies. Checking Twitter every 10 seconds is frowned upon in most theaters. I did see “We’re the Millers” and thought it was hilarious - maybe it was the alcohol at Harbor East - but I don’t expect it to bring home any statues.

Got any leftover Oscar jokes that you’ve never used on this blog?
Nah. But I do remember when “Eat Drink Man Woman” was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 1995. Coincidentally, I hear that’s also how Scott Erickson asked out Lisa Guerrero on their first date.

Feel better?
A little.

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