My dark horse candidate with the Orioles

Two more days until Orioles pitchers and catchers report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex. Seems like the right time to name a dark horse candidate to break camp with the club.

The Orioles signed pitcher Alfredo Aceves to a minor league deal on Jan. 15. He received a spring training invite.

He's my guy.

Aceves will work out as a starter in camp, according to manager Buck Showalter. He's more likely to find a spot in the bullpen, though he becomes a candidate for the back end of the rotation if the Orioles don't sign a veteran starter.

When I asked executive vice president Dan Duquette last month about Aceves' role, he replied via text, "His job is to get the hitters out when he is on the mound."

Aceves could take on that responsibility in a set-up role while Tommy Hunter tries his hand at closing. He also could work in a long relief role. The bullpen has a few vacancies at the moment.

Aceves has made 15 starts among his 194 major league appearances over six seasons. He's 30-14 with a 3.69 ERA and 29 saves, including 25 in 2012.

Last year, Aceves went 4-1 with a 4.86 ERA in 11 games, including six starts, with the Red Sox. He was 4-2 with a 4.25 ERA in eight starts at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Aceves was impressive in the Mexican Winter League and allowed four earned runs in 14 innings in the Caribbean Series.

Unfortunately, Aceves has gained more attention for his explosive personality. The suspension for "conduct detrimental to the team" after his blowup with former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. The dugout confrontation with second baseman Dustin Pedroia. His role in the brawl between Mexico and Canada in the World Baseball Classic.

Showalter had a conference call with Aceves, pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti during the mini-camp in Sarasota. I'm sure clubhouse chemistry was discussed at length.

"He was good," Showalter said. "You could tell he had some things he wanted to say as much as ask. It was good. It was interesting hearing his decision about why (he chose the Orioles) and who else was offering on him. He has three other pretty solid offers pretty close to ours and at least one in the American League East.

"He'll come in here initially as a starter. He said he'd do whatever, but I think he was happy to hear we'd go down that road to start with."

Aceves is guaranteed $1.2 million if he makes the big league club, with a chance to earn $3 million if he reaches incentives. Both sides have protection in this contract if it doesn't work out.

I'm predicting that Aceves earns a spot in the bullpen, the chances increasing after they failed to sign a closer. The Orioles have a bunch of right-handed candidates, but his versatility and past success in the majors could give him an edge.

Feel free to pass along your dark horse candidates.

Note: In case you missed it, MASN has added a seventh game to its Orioles spring training broadcast schedule - Wednesday, March 19 at 1 p.m. against the Tampa Bay Rays at Ed Smith Stadium. The game will be rebroadcast at 9 p.m.

With this additional game, the Orioles' spring training broadcast schedule on MASN HD will be as follows:

* Saturday, March 1 at 1 p.m., Toronto Blue Jays vs. Orioles (replay at 7 p.m.)
* Friday, March 7 at 1 p.m., Philadelphia Phillies vs. Orioles (replay at 7 p.m.)
* Saturday, March 8 at 1 p.m., Boston Red Sox vs. Orioles (replay at 7 p.m.)
* Saturday, March 15 at 1 p.m., New York Yankees vs. Orioles (replay at 7 p.m.)
* Monday, March 17 at 7 p.m., Minnesota Twins vs. Orioles
* Wednesday, March 19 at 1 p.m., Tampa Bay Rays vs. Orioles (replay at 9 p.m.)
* Monday, March 24 at 1 p.m., Boston Red Sox vs. Orioles (replay at 7 p.m.)


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