For starters, O's focus on pitching

The Associated Press

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles spent millions during the offseason to fortify their offense and keep intact a bullpen that shined in 2015.

Unfortunately, the starting rotation remains uncertain as the team prepares to open spring training camp in Florida this week.

Baltimore's most notable move this winter was to retain free agent slugger Chris Davis, the major league's reigning home run king, at a price of $161 million over seven years.

"When you make an investment like the Orioles have in Chris Davis, obviously it's a commitment by the ownership ... to field a competitive team year in and year out," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said.

Duquette also re-signed setup man Darren O'Day, traded for hard-hitting outfielder Mark Trumbo and added free agent Hyun-Soo Kim, a standout in South Korea. In addition, catcher Matt Wieters returns after accepting the club's qualifying offer.

That might not be good enough to enable the Orioles to rebound from an 81-81 finish last season — a poor encore to their appearance in the AL Championship Series in 2014.

"The biggest thing we have to do is get better in starting pitching," manager Buck Showalter said. "That was the biggest difference in the two seasons, in a nutshell."

Baltimore lost free agent lefty Wei-Yin Chen and has not garnered a noteworthy replacement, although Duquette is still reportedly in pursuit of free agent Yovani Gallardo.


Some things to know about the Orioles before their first spring training workout Friday:

Investing in the future: The players appreciate management's readiness to spend big money for a run at a playoff berth. Davis received the richest contract in franchise history, and the payroll is up substantially from last year.

"The doom and gloom that was predicted coming into the offseason, with none of these free agents coming back, it's definitely encouraging to see ownership is willing to do whatever it takes to win," reliever Brad Brach said.

Center fielder Adam Jones said, "It shows that the team cares."

Improvement needed: Showalter's most important task this spring is to have his starting staff ready to roll for the April 4 opener against the Twins.

At this point, he's counting on returnees Chris Tillman (11-11 in 2015), Miguel Gonzalez (9-12), Ubaldo Jimenez (12-10) and up-and-coming Kevin Gausman (4-7).

"Chris has got to revert to form, Miguel has got to revert to form," Showalter said. "Gaus has got to pop when we take the governors off, and we've got to find somebody to take Chen's place."

Hardy returns: Hindered by a torn labrum for much of 2015, shortstop J.J. Hardy is ready for a bounce-back season after hitting .219 with eight homers and 37 RBIs.

"It was always there," he said of the pain. "It wasn't terrible, so I could play through it, But it wasn't good either."

Rest and rehabilitation appeared to have solved the issue.

"Got started working out earlier this year than I ever have," Hardy said. "Feeling strong. Everything's good."

Welcome aboard: It might be well into March before Showalter decides where to put Kim and Trumbo in the starting lineup.

Kim has the potential to be a leadoff hitter, and the Orioles can only hope Trumbo can show the power that enabled him to hit 95 homers with the Angels from 2011-13.

"I've played against him," Jones said. "I've chased a few balls down, and I've had to stop on a few that already went out of the ballpark."

Youth served: Before Davis signed, the Orioles were willing to try prospects Christian Walker and Trey Mancini as backups to Trumbo at first base.

The youngsters probably won't make the team, but each will get plenty of playing time this spring.

''They're going to make sure they've got their gray pants (for road games)," Showalter said. "Trey and Christian will get all the at-bats they want."