Duquette: “There’s still hope for 2017” (tied 1-1)

The Orioles have placed outfielder Mark Trumbo on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right ribcage and transferred shortstop J.J. Hardy to the 60-day disabled list. They placed pitcher Jeremy Hellickson on the 25-man roster and optioned pitcher Yefry Ramírez to Double-A Bowie.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette said today that he spoke to the majority of contenders as the non-waiver trade deadline approached. He wanted to add to the club, however, believing it’s still a contender with no one running away with the American League East.

Relievers Zach Britton and Brad Brach drew plenty of interest, but the return wasn’t satisfactory, especially with Duquette believing that the Orioles still can make the playoffs.

Though willing to subtract from their roster at the right price, the Orioles were in buy mode with the acquisition of Hellickson and infielder Tim Beckham. They also picked up Ramirez, viewed as a potential starter down the road.

duquette-at-opacy.jpg“The trade deadline has come and gone and the Orioles have successfully added a couple of pitchers in Hellickson and Ramirez and also a shortstop, a pretty talented kid in Tim Beckham,” Duquette said. “What we like about Hellickson is that he’s been a top performer in the league since he came in the league as a rookie and he’s an outstanding competitor. He knows how to win in the American League East, having pitched in Tampa, and he’s a very dependable, solid starting pitcher, which is something we’ve been looking to solidify this year. So that will be a help.

“Beckham should help us. He’s got a good bat, he’s got excellent power numbers for a middle infielder. He’s proven to be solid defensively at second and short. And I think he’s just starting to come into his own really as a ballplayer. He was the first player taken in the draft several years ago, which tells you the type of talent he has. And he’s starting to learn how to hit.

“Look at his numbers outside of Tropicana Field when he goes on the road. They’re very good, among the top infielders in the league in terms of offensive production. He does a good job of solid defense wherever he plays on the diamond. So, we’re looking forward to him joining the ballclub. And see if we can more production from the shortstop position and maintain some solid defense.

“And now we have Zach Britton pitching like Zach Britton can pitch. We think if we can solidify the starting rotation, we can make a run at it.”

Hardy is a free agent following the season and Beckham is under team control through 2020.

“What I like about Tim Beckham is he’s 27 years old and to me it looks like he’s just learning how to hit,” Duquette said. “He has an opportunity to help our ballclub not just this year, but in the future.”

The Orioles begin tonight four games below .500 at 50-54, 5 1/2 back for the second wild card and 6 1/2 out of first place.

“We’re going to take a shot at getting the most out of this season,” Duquette said. “Nobody is running away with the American League East. The teams are so evenly matched. If you make a move here or there and it jells, I mean, who knows? We still have some hope that we can make the playoffs.”

Asked how close he came to moving Britton or Brach, Duquette replied, “Well, there’s a lot of interest in the pitchers in our bullpen because they’re good, quality pitchers.”

“It was great to see Zach pitch back-to-back and pick up two saves the last couple of days in Texas,” Duquette added. “His ball was moving like the Zach Britton of last year and that was encouraging. And Brad Brach stepped into that role and did a nice job, so he’s proven that not only is he one of the top setup men in the league, that he can also close. And Mychal Givens to me is a closer on the horizon. He’s a terrific fielder, he’s got great stuff, he’s improved his pitches to get out lefties, so we’ve got a strength on our team in that bullpen, and frankly I’m glad they’re playing for us.”

Duquette didn’t exactly bite when asked whether he received an offer for Britton that would have worked if the Orioles were sellers, but his response made it clear that no team overwhelmed him at the deadline.

“That’s a speculative question,” Duquette said, laughing. “Zach Britton was one of the top pitchers in the American League last year and because he had an injury this year, he hasn’t quite returned to that form. But I think he’s going to return to that form, and that, to me, is what Zach Britton is. He’s one of the top relievers in the American League.

“There’s a steep price to pay for the relievers who were traded last year and that really wasn’t the market this year.”

Duquette indicated that he spoke to the Nationals about Britton, though he didn’t offer specifics.

“There was a lot of interest in our pitchers in the bullpen and there’s a lot of teams that feel that that big closer in the bullpen will help their team,” he said, “so we talked to just about all the contenders.”

Were the Orioles ever in seller mode?

“We like our guys and we like our team,” Duquette said. “You do one or two things right and get on a roll ... there’s still hope, there’s still hope. The wild card keeps hope alive for a lot of teams. Frankly, I’m glad that we’re adding. I would much rather be adding this time of year than subtracting.

The message sent to players and fans, Duquette said, is that “there’s still hope for 2017.”

“The Orioles believe there’s hope for 2017, the ownership group believes there’s hope for 2017, so we’re going to keep playing the schedule,” he said. “We have some reinforcements I think in the minors that are going to be able to come up and help us between now and the end of the year. We’re keeping an eye on some players in Double-A and Triple-A that we think might be able to help us down the stretch.”

Hellickson alone won’t be enough to stabilize the rotation.

“We’ve got to get some of the guys in the rotation to pitch like they established themselves over the course of their career,” Duquette said. “We’re getting some excellent work out of (Kevin) Gausman. We had a lot of patience. But now he’s returned to form that we knew he was capable of and I’m hopeful that some of the others will also return to the form that they established for themselves.”

Hellickson makes his Orioles debut Wednesday night against the Royals.

“Jeremy Helllickson will certainly help,” Duquette said, “but to have some of the other guys pitch like they’re capable of, that will be good, too.”

Outfielder Hyun Soo Kim was the lone position player traded, going to the Phillies as part of the Hellickson deal.

“There’s varying levels of interest in a lot of our players,” Duquette said, “but I still like this team. I like this team for this year, I like this team for next year. You see bits and spurts of this team playing very, very good baseball, so the consistency will come when we get a consistent, stable rotation.”

There’s plenty of speculation that the contracts of Duquette and manager Buck Showalter, both expiring after next season, and the age of majority owner Peter G. Angelos push the Orioles to stay the course. Duquette laughed at the suggestion.

“We expected to have a contending team all the time this year and when we ran into a couple of bumps in the road, I think we still think we can have a good team this year,” he said. “(Giants executive) Brian Sabean said it best. You want to be adding on Aug. 1 and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re all trying to get to the playoffs. And some of the teams that have gone in the playoffs in that last spot have been able to capitalize on that and go on and win a championship.

“It’s really a marathon, but if you can complete the marathon and get into the playoffs, you still have a chance.”

Trades can happen after the non-waiver deadline and the Orioles have been busy in the past through August. They’re not necessarily done.

“We’re going to work on seeing if we can add to the club,” Duquette said. “It’s going to be obviously harder after the trade deadline passes, but we’ve been able to make a couple deals along the way to help the club. (Alejandro) De Aza was one deal where we picked up a veteran player that helped the team. I think we added Nate McLouth a couple years ago after the deadline. Michael Bourn was a pretty good pickup for us, so hopefully we’ll be able to find some more veteran players like that who know what it’s like to be in a pennant race and to compete down the stretch for the wild card.”

Update: Doubles by Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer off Ubaldo Jiménez gave the Royals a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Hosmer’s two-bagger came with two outs.

Update II: The Orioles tied the game 1-1 in the fifth inning on Manny Machado’s two-out double and Jonathan Schoop’s single.

Jimenez allowed one run and five hits in seven innings, with two walks and six strikeouts. He threw 100 pitches, 61 for strikes.

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