More from Showalter and another look at new labor agreement

The Orioles will attempt to improve their pitching depth before opening day, no matter how long it takes. The rotation and the bullpen. They're always interested in arms.

In the meantime, manager Buck Showalter likes his much-maligned rotation and expects other teams to exhibit interest in his starters. And he doesn't care if the folks doing the projections disagree with him.

"Very quietly, I think our pitching actually is in a lot better shape than people think, especially our bullpen," Showalter said this week on the "Hot Stove Show" on 105.7 The Fan. "We've got six starters for five spots, so there will be some people knocking on our door about our surplus of starting pitching. That's right, I said it.

"I kind of like laying in the weeds with our rotation."

A rotation with four of its members - Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Yovani Gallardo and Wade Miley - entering the final guaranteed year of their contracts. Showalter wonders if there's a connection between looming free agency and the group's resurgence in September.

"I'd hate to think that's why they pitched better, but sometimes there's a little different sense of urgency in those types of years, and that bodes well," Showalter said. "I think (Kevin) Gausman and (Dylan) Bundy, I'm so excited about where they are in their process. They could go to another level. And our bullpen, we're going to get beat up on people asking us about people in our bullpen, because when the guys like (Aroldis) Chapman and all these guys leave the board, they're going to look at a lot of our guys as potential cheaper versions to close, and we're not giving them away. Trust me. They're going to have to pay dearly for us to do something like that."

Gallardo-Throws-Gray-Sidebar.jpgGallardo is a prime bounceback candidate after regaining the strength in his shoulder over the summer and working hard on his conditioning. The Orioles hold a $13 million option on his contract for 2018 with a $2 million buyout.

"You take a look at all four of these guys in the last year of their contract, their track record at some point has been very good. And if their health is there ...," Showalter said.

"Gallardo, you could make a case for him to have the potential to have as big a year as anybody. I know just from being around this guy every day how disappointed he was that he couldn't get to that ... Now if there's still a physical issue there, then he's going to struggle, but I'll tell you, he's got some real strong want-to right now about pitching next year. He's got a big family that he wants to support as well as he can. He's probably a guy you're not going to get asked a lot about, but at the end of the year he's probably the guy they should have been asking about.

"And Miley I know is a guy a lot of people have interest in, but so do we. And Ubaldo was probably our best pitcher the last couple months of the season, so people are certainly aware of what he's capable of. The thing Ubaldo presents is his health. This guy has been a rock of physical steadiness. This guy takes the ball every fifth day and that is really hard to find in today's game."

Jimenez stood on the mound when the season ended, Edwin Encarnacion's three-run homer in the 11th inning eliminating the Orioles in the American League wild card game. He took the loss hard, according to people close to him, and could use a fresh start - or any start rather than a bullpen assignment - next spring.

"I think that's what coming to camp and a fresh start is about," Showalter said. "We're always judged by the way everything ended. He's got to know that 162 games, everything shouldn't get thrown out, but that's the world we live in and you choose to be a part of it. But Ubaldo, that's one of the strengths of his peers and the people around him. He's had some tough times here and he's had some really good times for us. I'm expecting him to have a big year for us."

There's a growing buzz in the industry that the Orioles could deal one of their starters before breaking camp. Miley is deemed the most marketable when grouped with Gallardo and Jimenez, but interest won't be confined to him. The club would have to be overwhelmed by an offer to move Gausman or Bundy.

"There's a part of me that would like to go with 13 pitchers and carry all six starters and pass the load around. I really would," Showalter said. "Sometimes I think about that and we'll continue to look at that instead of dealing from a depth strength, because you don't know where Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright (will be) and Chris Lee's going to come back, and some other kids ... (Joe) Gunkel's on the roster and we just added Logan Verrett. We're trying to make sure we have some what-ifs in place, but those guys are potential to be better than just what-ifs."

Donnie Hart, who appeared in 22 games and allowed one run in 18 1/3 innings after making the leap from Double-A Bowie, has a spot waiting for him in the bullpen. As Showalter said, the left-hander would have to pitch his way off the team.

"Donnie is a guy who doesn't shake when you hand him the ball," Showalter said. "He's a guy who has plied his trade. He came up here, he listened to everything. I like the fact that he threw out some things that didn't work. Sometimes they can listen to too much. Everybody is trying to help. You've got to be able to say, 'OK, thank you. This is who I am.'

"I kept asking about him the last couple years because his stats were good, and when you see a guy down under closing in Double-A, that tells me he can get right-handed hitters out. And that was because of the changeup. And you're looking for those left-handed relievers who, when you've got left-right-left, three-four-five in the eighth inning, you don't have to make a pitching change for that right-hander. That he can defend himself or keep that guy in the park to get two people out he should get out.

"When I saw him face (David) Ortiz and some of the tough left-handers down the stretch, he didn't blink, so he got my attention. He's going to have to work his way off it and spring training's one of the biggest foolers in baseball, so we'll see."

Orioles relievers ranked first in the American League with a 3.40 ERA despite twice losing Darren O'Day to stints on the disabled list and plucking various arms from the Eastern League.

"We might/could improve by having, say, a Donnie Hart all year," Showalter said. "We might/could improve by having a healthy Darren O'Day all year. He only pitched, what, 30 innings this year or something like that? Who could expect Zach (Britton) and Brad (Brach) to do the same thing they did out of the bullpen, but why not?

"Mychal Givens is another guy you've got to put in that same group as Bundy and Gausman - a young guy, and there's another level to go to. We just got him to where he'd throw his changeup the last month of the season and defend himself against left-handed hitters. He was stubborn with it, but finally he started having some success with it. Mychal has got a chance to go to another level, too."

Hart isn't the only rookie with a roster spot reserved for him. Trey Mancini also is expected to head north with the team after hitting three home runs in five games with the Orioles. His best shot at regular at-bats would come as the designated hitter if they don't re-sign Mark Trumbo, since Chris Davis is ticketed again for first base.

"I've talked to Chris," Showalter said. "I want to be prepared when I go to the meetings about, 'How do you feel about playing other places?' Chris will do whatever it takes for the club to do well, but I'd really like to leave him at first because that's a really good defensive infield. Not that Trey's not got the potential to be a good one.

"Trey has a really good pedigree behind him. There aren't many guys in today's game that really master a level behind them. They hit .270 and they expect you to move them up 10 minutes later. Trey at three or four different levels, he's kind of overmatched that level and there's not a 4A, so I really don't know what else a guy's got to do to get an opportunity."

The new labor agreement brought mixed feelings for Showalter. He's glad that the All-Star Game no longer determines home field advantage in the World Series, but he wanted the 25-man roster expanded to 26 and the September rosters reduced.

"I think it's best for the game, but they didn't ask me," he said. "I haven't been doing it long enough."

The 10-day disabled list meets with his approval.

"I like that," he said. "We can wait and see who tries to take advantage of some of the loopholes. We would never do that.

"It makes it a lot different carrying five and six starters, and also with guys who are out of options, so don't come down with a hangnail. Who knows what we'll do with you?"

Here are some other changes in the new agreement:

* Beginning in 2018, the regular season will be expanded to provide four additional off-days for players.

* Additional restrictions on start times of games on getaway days so that players will arrive in their next city at an earlier time.

* The commissioner's office will select reserves for the All-Star teams instead of managers.

* All players on the active roster of the winning All-Star team shall share equally in a $640,000 bonus.

* Clubs may not tender a qualifying offer to a player who has previously received one.

* The time period during which a player can accept a qualifying offer will be extended from seven to 10 days.

* The major league minimum salary will increase from $507,500 in 2016 to $535,000 in 2017, $545,000 in 2018, $555,000 in 2019 and be subject to a cost-of-living adjustment in 2020 and 2021.

* The minor league minimum salary will increase from $82,700 in 2016 to $86,500 in 2017, $88,000 in 2018, $89,500 in 2019 and be subject to a cost-of-living adjustment in 2020 and 2021.

* Number of in-season random urine tests will increase from 3,200 to 4,800. (Media not included, right?)

* Number of off-season random urine tests will increase from 350 to 1,550 in order to ensure that all 40-man roster players will be subject to at least one random off-season test.

* The penalties and prohibitions for stimulant violations will be increased to 50 games for a second violation, 100 games for a third violation and up to a permanent suspension for a fourth violation.

* Any player who makes his major league debut in 2017 or later will be prohibited from using smokeless tobacco on the field in every ballpark.

* The time period in which a club may designate a player for assignment has been shortened from 10 days to seven days.

* Clubs will be prohibited from recalling a player from option prior to the expiration of 10 days if the player's minor league season has concluded.

* Clubs will no longer have to place players on optional assignment waivers prior to optioning them to the minors.

This last one is much appreciated. It was confusing and annoying.

Note: The Cubs signed former Orioles left-hander Brian Duensing to a contract worth $2 million, according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman.

Shameless plug alert: I'm appearing on "Wall to Wall Baseball" today from noon-2 p.m. on MASN.

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