Taking a few questions on a Saturday

Did the Maryland football team really schedule Clemson as its homecoming opponent?

I tried to schedule Valerie Bertinelli as my prom date, but that was a reach. And so is the idea that Clemson makes a good homecoming opponent.

Was the person responsible wearing his “Bad Idea” jeans?

Anyway, I spent an hour today on MASN as part of the “Wall to Wall Baseball” crew, and we again took questions via e-mails and tweets. Here are a few topics that were addressed:

1. Should the Orioles trade J.J. Hardy this winter?

No. Or to put it another way... no way.

Hardy, 31, has one year left on his contract worth $7 million. He’s a Gold Glove shortstop who has a chance to win the award in back-to-back seasons. He’s the leader of the infield, unfazed by the procession of double play partners. His 25 home runs tied Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki for most in the majors at this position, and his 76 RBIs ranked third. And he’s answered critics of his durability by playing in 158 and 159 games the past two seasons.

You don’t trade him, you sign him to an extension and keep Manny Machado at third base, where the 21-year-old is the favorite to win a Gold Glove.

2. How would you handicap the field of pitching coach candidates?

I wouldn’t, other than to say that Rangers bullpen coach Andy Hawkins may have been the longest shot when the interview process started due to his lack of experience as a major league pitching coach. He held the job only on an interim basis. But all four candidates made solid impressions during their interviews.

By the way, it’s accurate to say Hawkins, Rich Dubee, Carl Willis and Dave Wallace are the leading candidates. It’s probably more accurate to say they’re the only candidates. As I wrote on Wednesday, no one else is scheduled for an interview.

3. What is the Orioles’ top priority in addressing the roster?

As usual, it’s improving the rotation.

The Orioles fielded the best defense in the majors. A historically good defense. And they led the majors with 212 home runs. But it always starts with starting pitching.

The starters posted a 4.57 ERA that ranked 27th in the majors. Either guys currently in the organization need to step up, as Chris Tillman did this season, or the Orioles need to bring in another arm - one that’s capable of racking up 200-plus innings.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette is always searching for pitching, but the Orioles won’t spend big on it or trade away their top prospects for it. So, good luck with that.

The Orioles also need to do a better job of getting on base and rely less on the long ball. Their .313 on-base percentage ranked 19th in the majors. The Red Sox were first at .349 and the Cardinals were third at .332.

Last time I checked, they’re playing in the World Series.

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