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Duquette searching for veteran starting pitcher to heat up a cool off-season for Orioles

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BALTIMORE - The Baltimore Orioles still have some work to do before the start of spring training, and the first order of business appears to be adding a proven starting pitcher.

Executive vice-president of baseball operations Dan Duquette hopes to fill that hole within the next two weeks.

Speaking Saturday at the team's annual FanFest, Duquette said, "We're going to see what we can do to add a veteran pitcher between now and when spring training starts. We think we have the core of a good staff but if we could add a veteran starter, that would stabilize the staff and help us get off to a good start."

A.J. Burnett, Ervin Santana and Bronson Arroyo are among those available.

The Orioles have a solid young rotation with Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Zach Britton. None of them, however, can be considered to be an ace.

"If we can sign a veteran starter, it would fill out our ballclub," Duquette said. "And then some of these young pitchers that we really like should be able to help us later in the season."

Then again, manager Buck Showalter wouldn't be angry if Duquette came up empty in his bid to enhance the rotation.

"I don't think it has to happen," Showalter said. "If it's the right guy it would make it easier, but I haven't dwelled on it much."

It's been chilly for the Orioles this winter in the so-called Hot Stove League. Duquette traded AL saves leader Jim Johnson to Oakland to reduce the team's payroll, and Baltimore also lost left fielder Nate McLouth, second baseman Brian Roberts and right-handed starter Scott Feldman to free agency.

The additions include outfielders Delmon Young and David Lough, infielder Jemile Weeks and relievers Ryan Webb and Alfredo Aceves — moves that didn't exactly have the fans buzzing at FanFest.

Duquette understands this. But he contends he isn't done yet.

"I want to say this: We have some more work to do this off-season," he said. "We're going to see what we can do between now and when the season starts. If we can get the work done that we've been trying to get done, I think we'll have a very competitive team."

The Orioles went 14 years without a winning season before Duquette and Showalter teamed to take Baltimore to the playoffs in 2012. Last year the Orioles went 85-77, which wasn't good enough to reach the post-season but still represented a successful campaign for a franchise that struggled for well over a decade.

Duquette has a system he believes in, and the formula doesn't call for signing big-name players for big bucks.

"The thing that I want to point out is that the Baltimore Orioles are going to make a living by bringing up their best players through the farm system," he said. "Our very best players are not going to come to our major league team through free agency. So if people have the expectation that we're going to sign a lot of high-profile free agents and that's going to be the answer, that is not what the Orioles are about."

If Duquette does nothing more this winter, many of the current players on the team would be fine with that.

"I know we're still looking, but if not, we're ready to go out and compete as we are," said Tillman, who went 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA last year.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy said, "I don't know what they're trying to add, but we all feel confident with the guys we've got. So if we don't add anyone, I feel like we're still going to be able to compete. We're going to be good."

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