As the Orioles look to improve their pitching for 2014, manager Buck Showalter wonders if the club has some answers now or looking to the future already within their organization.
Last night, Showalter indicated the Orioles are open to adding pitching this winter via free agency while at the same time expressing some optimism for some of the current pitchers in the minor leagues. Showalter recently spent some time checking out O’s prospects in person in the Arizona Fall League.
“I went out to look at (Jason) Gurka and (Tim) Berry and (Eduardo) Rodriguez,” he said. “How far away is (Mike) Wright? Before you give a contract of X number of years, how far away is Rodriguez?
“I look at that (free agent) list every day. Dan (Duquette) has a whole board there and I’ve got the sheet and I look at it four or five times a day. It changes. It evolves. At what price do you pay for that?
“I’m trying to stay focused from within, but I do feel very confident that, if we need to do something, that financially we’ll do what needs to be done. I’ve never had Peter (Angelos) say no. But I’m not a guy that asks a lot either.”
Showalter was reminded that the Orioles have not spent big in free agency in recent winters and some fans have questioned that decision.
“At what price? At the expense of not having (Matt) Wieters or (J.J.) Hardy or (Chris) Davis or (Nick) Markakis. At what price? I like our guys and don’t covet other people’s players.
“We didn’t get where we got overnight. We need to have another good competitive year. I know where I want it to end,” he said.
By that, of course, he meant, with a World Series victory.
Showalter spoke at Dempsey’s Brew Pub and Restaurant at Oriole Park. He was attending a pre-race party for the KidsPeace event taking place this morning.
The Orioles, OriolesREACH and Showalter along with his wife Angela have partnered with KidsPeace to host the fourth annual Trick-or-Trot 5K/1-Mile Walk at Oriole Park today. Proceeds from the event benefit KidsPeace Foster Care and Community Programs of Maryland and Washington, D.C., including KidsPeace Empowering Youth to Succeed, a program that prepares youth for independence through life-skills training.
While saying he did feel confident the O’s would spend on free agent players if they felt it was the best move, Showalter reminded a few reporters that the two World Series teams had several key homegrown pitchers.
“Who are we? We’ve got to graduate guys like Chris Tillman. Where did (Jon) Lester come from? Where did (Clay) Buchholz come from? I can keep going with the Cardinals, with Tampa,” he said.
“I look at best-case scenarios. Let’s look at the Cardinals starting pitchers this year and what was thought of them last year. Nobody knew who they were.”
When asked about the second base position for next season, Showalter spoke as if he expected Brian Roberts to return in 2014 and said he would be fine if the O’s looked to their internal options there for next season with players like Roberts, Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop.
“That is the way I’m looking at it, yeah,” he said.
Showalter said he was excited to see what impact new pitching coach Dave Wallace will have and that some of the club’s young pitchers should look at his hiring as a fresh start.
He said he anticipated that the club would hire a bullpen coach next week and that Wallace would have major input into the hiring.
“I like the job that Billy (Castro) and Scott (McGregor) did last year (as bullpen coaches),” Showalter said. “But in the end, it’s only fair for (Wallace) ... we both look at it as an assistant pitching coach. So I want to let him have that input.
“He’s (Wallace) got a great presentation. He’s very low key. He can get in your face when it’s time to but he tries to make it something that is their idea and they buy into it. I just want to turn him loose and let him go and try to create the environment where he does what he does.”
Update: The Orioles have declined the $5 million option on left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, according to the Major League Baseball Players Association. MLBTradeRumors.com first reported the news.
Though he never appeared in a major league game after signing an $8.15 million contract before the 2012 season, the Orioles may be willing to bring Wada back on a more team-friendly deal, perhaps a minor league contract.