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Here are five questions Orioles need to answer


Here are five questions Orioles need to answer

Two months from today, spring training begins in Sarasota, Fla. The Orioles may have as many as 30 pitchers and half a dozen catchers on hand. Position players may join them, and a few days later, nearly 60 players are likely to be in the Orioles’ clubhouse.

Between now and then, here are five questions that need to be answered.

1) Is Chris Davis going to be an Oriole in 2016—and beyond?

Despite Scott Boras’ tireless work on behalf of his client, he can’t seem to find another team that’s interested in paying what the Orioles are.

The reported seven-year, $150 million offer for Davis apparently includes deferred money, and doesn’t include an opt-out.

Orioles executive vice president for baseball operations Dan Duquette indicated at last Saturday’s FanFest that he didn’t understand how opt outs work to a club’s advantage, and was puzzled why teams would agree to them.

While the team and Orioles fans want Davis to agree to come back to the Orioles before the holidays, this may take some more time.

Boras may still try and find another suitor. Maybe a player gets hurt in over the holidays, and there’s a sudden need for a first baseman.

In 2012, Detroit’s Victor Martinez tore his ACL during offseason workouts, and presto, the Tigers were suddenly a January buyer for Prince Fielder.

2) Would Orioles fans accept Davis if he waited until January to sign?

During Davis’ awful 2014 season, he was still cheered. In other cities, a sub .200 average would have gotten a player booed, but Baltimore loved him.

It’s often overlooked that Davis’ 2014 season ended with him serving a 25-game suspension for use of Adderall without a prescription.

Fans overlook that when you hit 47 home runs and drive in 117 runs.

3) Will the Orioles get another left-handed hitter?

If Davis doesn’t return to the Orioles, then another Boras client, Pedro Alvarez, who was nontendered by the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this month, is in play.

Davis is a better fielder; Alvarez is best suited to be a DH.

It’s unlikely that Alvarez comes to the Orioles if Davis returns. That would be a lot of home runs and a world record for strikeouts.

A Davis return probably sends Mark Trumbo into right field on most days.

There are some decent left-handed hitting right fielders on the market: Matt Joyce, David Murphy, Gerardo Parra and Will Venable.

Parra is looking for a bigger contract than the Orioles had in mind while the Orioles have had interest in Murphy and Venable in the past.

With Joyce’s success at Oriole Park, he seems like a natural fit.

4) Speaking of left-handers, how about a left-handed starter?

The Wei-Yin train has left the station. While the Orioles would have loved to have kept Wei-Yin Chen, there was never any realistic possibility that they would.

A left-handed starter is desirable, but as Buck Showalter and pitching coach Dave Wallace said at FanFest, it’s not a requirement.

Chen, Yovani Gallardo and Scott Kazmir’s asking prices are probably too high for what they can deliver.

It’s probably more realistic for the Orioles to look at Doug Fister, who they’ve shown some interest in, on a one-year bounceback deal.

Cliff Lee’s name was floated at last week’s Winter Meetings. Duquette didn’t deny interest in the once great pitcher, who hasn’t pitched since July 2014.

As Duquette put it the Orioles don’t mind a “Red Cross” pitcher, a rehab, and that’s what the 37-year-old left-hander would be.

If spring training began today, the Orioles’ fifth starter could be Tyler Wilson or Mike Wright.

They’ll sign someone else between now and then.

5) Are there any smaller things the club needs to do?

The bullpen looks strong, strong enough so that if they don’t sign a credible fifth starter in the next two months, Brian Matusz and perhaps T.J. McFarland could get a look.

Don’t anticipate another major signing of a reliever.

Late last year, Showalter said the club needed better backups for J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones.

Paul Janish, who could fill the role for Hardy, was nontendered earlier this month. For now, Ryan Flaherty and Ozzie Martinez, who was Bowie’s shortstop in 2015, are Hardy’s stand-ins.

There doesn’t seem to be a logical backup for Jones. L.J. Hoes, who was reacquired last month and Nolan Reimold have played a limited amount of center, but if the Orioles sign Venable, that would work.

The 2016 coaching staff is set except for the addition of a new assistant hitting coach, but that’s now likely to wait until January.

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Orioles' Manny Machado leading all American League shortstops in All-Star Game votes


Orioles' Manny Machado leading all American League shortstops in All-Star Game votes

The Orioles' Manny Machado is the early leader among American League shortstops in the first results of All-Star voting released by Major League Baseball Tuesday.

Machado holds a lead of 110,131 votes over the Cleveland Indians' Francisco Lindor. 

No other Orioles' player is on the list, and Adam Jones isn't listed among the top-15 of outfielders. 

The Astros' Carlos Correa was last year’s starting shortstop for the American League, but is in fourth place with 206,707 votes, trailing the Yankees' Didi Gregorius who has 208,583.

The next AL voting update will be announced June 19.

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Zach Britton rejoins Orioles after stint on disabled list

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Zach Britton rejoins Orioles after stint on disabled list

BALTIMORE -- Baltimore Orioles left-hander Zach Britton has been activated from the disabled list, six months after undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Assuming he's finally healthy enough to resume his role as one of the best closers in the big leagues, the question now is: How long will Britton be with the Orioles?

Britton's contract expires after this season, and Baltimore entered play Monday with the worst record in the major leagues (19-45).

So, as he stood in front of his locker and spoke excitedly about his return to the Orioles, Britton conceded that his stay in Baltimore may not extend beyond the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

"I want to pitch well and help the team, regardless of our standing or trade discussions," he said.

Asked if the next few weeks might serve as an audition for other teams, Britton replied, "I guess so, but I'm not going to think of it like that."

Britton made the 2016 AL All-Star team during a season in which he converted all 47 of his save opportunities and compiled a 0.54 ERA in 69 appearances.

He fought forearm and knee injuries last season and had only 15 saves. Then, during the winter, he tore his right Achilles tendon during a workout.

"When I injured myself in December, I was just looking forward to walking again and running again and then to be able to pitch back in the big leagues," Britton said. "There were a lot of hurdles that I overcame."

Surgery and an intense rehab program under Orioles trainer Brian Ebel enabled the 30-year-old to return sooner than many anticipated.

"The thought that he's a pitcher for us on June 11, that's remarkable," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's checked every box to get ready. I don't know what else you could possibly do."

Although Britton will be pitching for a team that's struggled mightily this season, that won't influence the intensity he will bring to the mound.

"I had some injuries the last few years, so I'm looking forward to turning the page on that and just getting back to pitching well," he said. "Everyone in this clubhouse wants to do well at this level, and that's my focus."

To adjust the roster for Britton's return, the Orioles placed right-hander Pedro Araujo on the 10-day disabled list with a right elbow strain and moved outfielder Colby Rasmus to the 60-day DL.