What’s left for the Orioles among starter candidates?

Orioles manager Buck Showalter provided one of the early light-hearted moments at Saturday morning’s KidsPeace Trick-or-Trot 5K/1-mile walk at Camden Yards. And I’m not referring to his humorous reaction to my Wonder Woman costume, which both amused and disturbed him.

Taking the microphone to offer his appreciation and encouragement to the crowd, Showalter said, “We’re looking for good runners, good costumes and left-handed starting pitching.”

Two out of three ain’t bad.

The pitching will have to wait a little while longer, but it’s most definitely a priority for a team that’s rebuilding its rotation.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette mentioned the need for a left-handed starter as he met with the media on the last day of the season, a pretty clear indication that the Orioles weren’t picking up Wade Miley’s $12 million option. There doesn’t seem to be any chance that the sides negotiate a lesser deal, though it was broached early in the offseason, according to a source.

Aquino-Throws-Gray-Sidebar.jpgMiley (32 starts) and Jayson Aquino (two) were the only left-handers to start for the Orioles this summer. Aquino was outrighted on Sept. 9.

Richard Bleier figures to stay in his current relief role. The media kept trying to create story angles revolving around his possible switch to the rotation - I did my part - but Showalter wasn’t biting. I think he may have been intrigued by the idea for a few moments, mainly out of desperation as his starters were crafting the worst ERA in club history, but he decided that Bleier’s skill set was better suited for the bullpen.

Tanner Scott is still in a developmental stage, trying to throw strikes more consistently while the Orioles determine whether he should start or work in relief. He’s not likely to break camp with the team and we don’t know which innings he’s going to cover in 2018.

Chris Lee challenged for a starting job in spring training, didn’t make the club and spent the entire summer with Triple-A Norfolk. Maybe he reaches the majors next season and maybe it’s in the rotation instead of the bullpen, where he made seven appearances with the Tides, but he certainly can’t be counted upon when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

I’m not listening to any chatter linking the Orioles to CC Sabathia. He’d be a nice veteran presence on a staff that could use his leadership and he’d certainly provide an upgrade, even at this stage of his career, but it’s simply not going to happen.

Jason Vargas has drawn interest from the Orioles in past winters, and though he turns 35 in February, he’s bound to be on their radar again after going 18-11 with a 4.16 ERA this year in 32 starts with the Royals after recovering from ligament-reconstructive surgery in his elbow.

Vargas was 12-3 with a 2.62 ERA and 1.147 WHIP in 17 starts before the break and 6-8 with a 6.38 ERA and 1.595 WHIP in 15 starts in the second half.

The Orioles could consider Derek Holland because he’s a guy with past success who’s in need of a bounceback season after posting a 6.20 ERA and 1.711 WHIP in 29 games with the White Sox. A lefty who’s right in Duquette’s wheelhouse.

Other southpaw free agents include Jaime Garcia, who pitched for the Braves, Twins and Yankees this season, and Hector Santiago, who has supporters in the organization but registered a 5.63 ERA this year in 70 1/3 innings with the Twins.

Francisco Liriano made 18 starts with the Blue Jays and 20 relief appearances with the Astros, and my guess is he’d like to get back in a rotation. I’ve written about the Orioles’ past interest in Jorge De La Rosa, but he turns 37 in April and made 65 relief appearances this summer with the Diamondbacks.

It’s mostly a flawed market, but the Orioles will try to find an upgrade in it or go the trade route. Either way, they’ve marked left-handed starter as one of their primary needs.

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