Leftovers for breakfast

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette was succinct yesterday when asked about pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.

“The only thing, his walk total was up this year,” Duquette said, “so obviously we’d like to see him throw a few more strikes.”

Or a lot more, since his 77 walks ranked second in the American League behind C.J. Wilson’s 85. Wilson threw 175 2/3 innings. Jimenez threw 125 1/3, spent time on the disabled list and was moved to the bullpen.

Jimenez went 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 25 games, including 22 starts, in the first year of his four-year, $50 million deal. He was left off the American League Championship Series roster and flew home instead of staying with the team.

jimenez-back-gray-pitching-sidebar.jpg“I thought he finished strong and that’s good, and I think he knows there’s another level he can go to for us,” said manager Buck Showalter. “He pitched some good games for us, but we got down to that part of the season, August I think it was, when we needed to run our best five out there and he was very close. But I expect him to be one of our best five next year.”

It’s not as though the Orioles have much choice except to push for it. They’re not going to cut him and they’d rather not put him in the bullpen. They need to get him right - the adjustment where he lowered his hands in his delivery was a positive step - and hope he can be a consistent winner for them.

The plan last spring called for T.J. McFarland to start at Triple-A Norfolk and perhaps join the Orioles rotation later in the season if a spot opened up, but he ended up back in the bullpen.

What’s next for him?

“Never know,” he said. “You kind of just prepare yourself in the offseason - take a couple of weeks and kind of relax a little bit, and then 120 days, I think we’re already reporting. Just get back at it, get in good shape, and show up in spring training and see what they have in mind for me.”

How does Duquette feel about two wild card teams in the World Series?

“The postseason, because it’s a short series, it’s a bit of a crapshoot, but if your team is hot and you have your roster tuned up, I think that’s really the formula,” he said.

“I have to give K.C. a lot of credit. Things seemed to come together for them at the right time. We didn’t play our best ball last week.”

Pitcher Ashur Tolliver was expected to miss seven to 10 days in the Arizona Fall League with a pulled hamstring muscle.

Tolliver, the Orioles’ fifth-round pick in the 2009 amateur draft, went a combined 3-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 27 games between Double-A Bowie and Single-A Frederick. He allowed one run and two hits in 1 1/3 innings over two appearances with the Glendale Desert Dogs.

The Orioles are impressed with 18-year-old Cuban pitcher Lazaro Leyva, who reported to the instructional league after passing his physical and threw two bullpen sessions.

Fred Ferreira, executive director of international recruiting, signed Leyva for $725,000 after scouting him on three separate occasions.

“He had been better each time,” Ferreira said. “His fastball reached 98 (mph) on his last outing. His split and slider were above-average pitches and he had very good command. “

Showalter watched video of Leyva throwing a bullpen session in Sarasota and liked what he saw. Brian Graham, director of player development, was at the Ed Smith Stadium complex when Leyva threw twice in the bullpen and played long toss.

Leyva’s fastbal was clocked in the low 90s.

“He didn’t pitch in a game,” Graham said. “He’s an impressive-looking kid. He’s got a good body. Real good arm strength. He looks very athletic. When you see him on the mound, he looks like a shortstop out there. A lot of times that translates because of his athleticism. He definitely has plus arm strength.”

Graham also said the Orioles want Leyva, who’s living in Miami, to have “a normal offseason.”

“He’s going to rest and begin a throwing program and do the strength and conditioning routine that we do at the minor league level,” Graham said. “For his offseason, we’re actually taking him to Sarasota on a couple different occasions to make sure his strength and conditioning is going well, his throwing program is going well and everything is fine.

“He can’t leave the country for one year, at least. Obviously, it’s a visa issue, so he can’t leave to go anywhere. He’s going to work out under our guidance.”

The Orioles will decide later where to assign Leyva. Most likely, the right-hander will be kept at extended spring training after the team breaks camp.

“His performance will dictate where he goes and how quickly,” Graham said.

The Orioles must decide whether to protect Frederick pitcher Parker Bridwell in the Rule 5 draft. He’s looked good in the AFL, allowing one hit in six scoreless innings over three relief appearances.

Bridwell has excellent stuff but his inconsistency frustrates the Orioles. Teams inquire about him every winter and non-waiver trade deadline. The Rangers have wanted him for years, but the Orioles are hesitant to part with him.

Triple-A Norfolk pitcher Mike Wright, who nearly threw a no-hitter in his last two outings and allowed only three earned runs over his last six starts, also must be added to the 40-man roster or risk being lost in the Rule 5 draft. That’s a no-brainer.

Duquette mentioned Wright and Dylan Bundy yesterday while discussing the Orioles’ pitching depth.

I exchanged text messages last night with former Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, who confirmed that he’s retiring.

“I will always consider myself an Oriole, no matter what,” Roberts said.

Yes, I know he signed with the Yankees last winter, but he wanted to play another season and the Orioles didn’t contact his agent. Then again, Roberts could have given the Orioles a chance to counter it. They were surprised to learn that he reached agreement with the Yankees.

I joked that I’d campaign for Roberts to sign a one-day contract and retire as an Oriole. He appreciated the gesture, but passed on the offer.

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