A call to arms (more on Jones contract update)

So much for having a day off. It’s back to the baseball grind tonight with the Royals arriving at Camden Yards for a three-game series.

Jason Hammel turned in five quality starts out of six outings before his swollen right knee altered the early course of his season. He’s allowed nine runs (eight earned) and 13 hits in his last two starts covering 10 1/3 innings, with five walks and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t cleared the sixth in either start.

The Orioles require more innings from Hammel. The bullpen is fairly rested, but the Orioles traded their 200-inning guy, Jeremy Guthrie, to acquire Hammel. They need him to get back into a routine that strengthens his legs, builds up his stamina and doesn’t place too much stress on the knee.

Hammel isn’t 100 percent healthy, and Tommy Hunter and Jake Arrieta aren’t 100 percent effective. No wonder the Orioles want to beef up their pitching depth.

The Orioles are interested in Roy Oswalt, according to multiple reports, though nobody can say for sure whether Oswalt is interested in them. That’s sort of the important part for me. I’m interested in Salma Hayek, but she isn’t scrambling my eggs in the morning.

It makes perfect sense for the Orioles to consider Oswalt as long as they’re sitting in first place. He’s looking to sign for one year, pitch by the middle of June and test free agency again after the season. If the Orioles are going for it, they should go for Oswalt. If he’s a bust, they can let him walk.

You can’t operate in fear. Be aggressive and either reap the rewards or dust yourself off and try again.

I kept insisting over the winter that the Orioles didn’t make sense for Oswalt because pitching at Camden Yards in that division wasn’t conducive to increasing your value going into another free-agency year. Pitchers don’t normally rush to the Orioles when trying to resuscitate their careers.

Times sure have changed. Now the Orioles are looking like buyers instead of sellers. They see an opportunity to contend. That doesn’t mean they’ll start dealing their top young pitchers and depleting their supply, for whatever it’s worth, but executive vice president Dan Duquette isn’t going to stand pat.

I’d be very surprised if Oswalt ends up here, but it’s still intriguing that the Orioles are making a run at him. They’ve got Zach Britton nearing a return - he could be ready after two minor league rehab starts, the first taking place Saturday at Double-A Bowie - but they’re not satisfied with their internal options.

NOTE: FOX Sports is reporting that the Orioles are close to signing Adam Jones to a long-term extension, so there was a reason for those rumblings around town yesterday.

Duquette told me yesterday that nothing was “imminent,” which I also heard from two other people in the organization, but they’re clearly headed toward an announcement. If it doesn’t happen today, perhaps we’ll hear something before the weekend is done.

Jones is earning $6.15 million. He’s going to become the highest-paid Oriole in franchise history.

There’s been a perception here that Jones wanted to test free agency and relocate to the West Coast, but two factors come into play. The money is obviously right, and Jones believes the Orioles can win in his lifetime.

Their fast start in 2012 was crucial to getting a deal completed. And they really are going for it now, rather than looking to trade him for pieces that could help them contend much further down the road.

Duquette said he didn’t want to negotiate during the season, but that’s clearly been taking place. And Jones is going to be an Oriole for a long time.

Update: Duquette told me again this morning that nothing is “imminent.” However, Duquette is meeting today with owner Peter Angelos. Also, Jones took a physical yesterday, which suggests that nothing else needs to be done besides hammering out some final details.

After it was suggested to me earlier this morning that an announcement wouldn’t come before tomorrow, I’m now hearing that it might happen later today.

The three contract benchmarks in franchise history are the five-year, $65 million deal that the Orioles gave Albert Belle before the 1999 season, the six-year, $72 million contract that they gave Miguel Tejada before the 2004 season, and the six-year, $66.1 million extension they gave to Nick Markakis in 2009.

Jones’ deal is going to top them all. He’ll earn more than Tejada and more annually than Belle. But it would be surprising if he signs for more than six years.

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