Looking at the pitching staff, international signings and more

Skipping around the baseball world today with some random thoughts on random topics.

Are the Orioles sending their young pitchers a message?: With the signings of Dana Eveland, Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yin Chen, it is getting crowded in the Orioles' rotation. Depending upon who you considered a candidate for the starting five, there are now a dozen or so candidates for starting rotation spots on this team.

Seems to me the message is clear to the young guys like Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Zach Britton. They are not guaranteed spots in the starting five. They need to pitch better. They'll need to come to camp ready to do everything they can to earn a spot. I would expect nothing less of that trio and I don't think they'd want a spot handed to them.

Last year the Orioles didn't seem to have enough rotation depth come April, counting on guys like Justin Duchscherer to possibly join the team. Now the Orioles may have to work to get innings for all these guys come March.

This could have a trickle-down effect to the bullpen as well as some of the pitchers that lose out on rotation spots could remain on the team, but work out of the bullpen.

No one knows for sure how good this pitching staff in 2012 will be, but it's clear the spring training competition for roster spots will be heated.

Dan Duquette has followed through on international signings: He said he would look all over the world for players and he clearly has done that. With estimates that major league clubhouses are made up of 30 percent foreign-born players, this was necessary.

For many Orioles fans that have questioned the club's international efforts in recent years, this is music to their ears. There are good players to be found outside of the United States and it's about time the Orioles become bigger players in markets where the Yankees, Red Sox and others have long since been very active.

But I still hope there will be a day when the Orioles produce some of their own top international talent. The front office additions of Fred Ferreira and Ray Poitevint, named this week as the Orioles' new executive director of international baseball, seem to show that Duquette is serious about doing that as well.

The Orioles are not completely empty in recent years with these signings. Their 2011 minor league Player of the Year, Jonathan Schoop, was signed out of Curacao and is a solid prospect. The club's Dominican Summer League team made the playoffs last summer and youngsters like pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez and Gabriel Lino are promising young talents from Venezuela.

It comes down to this: Almost all of the top clubs in baseball have been better on the international market than the Orioles and that needs to change. Perhaps these recent steps show that it will.

To walk or not to walk: When I wrote about Orioles farmhand Tyler Townsend yesterday, several fans pointed out his low walk rate and that is a very valid point in that Townsend could use improvement in this area. He even said so during an interview when asked about areas where he can get better.

On the other hand, there are instances I think, in this age of so many stats and information available on the Internet, we sometimes are looking for the perfect player. All we want is someone to hit for average and power and have a great eye while doing so. Nothing wrong with wanting that, but few players achieve that.

In Townsend's case, I don't think we can overlook the walk rate, but don't let it get in the way of noticing that he's put up some very strong numbers even without the walk rate being sufficient.

Jacoby Ellsbury led the American League with 83 extra-base hits in 158 games last year. Townsend has 84 extra-base hits in 155 career games. Ellsbury walked 52 times in 2011 and had 660 at-bats. Townsend has walked 44 times in a career with 585 at-bats.

No one is comparing Townsend to an All-Star like Ellsbury or saying those numbers mean Townsend will even for sure be an Oriole someday. His lack of walks jumps out at you on the stat sheet. But so do 54 doubles and 24 homers in 585 at-bats since 2009.

Nothing wrong with pointing out a player's shortcomings. It's part of what makes discussing the game fun. But while looking at that, let's not lose sight of some of the real strong points as well. That's all.

Not the usual winter: Finally today, it's been a strange offseason with the Yankees and Red Sox on the sidelines for the big free agents. Those of you that thought that would ever happen with both in the same offseason, raise your hands.

Seeing headlines like this "Sox still looking for low-cost pitching," just seems strange.

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