Os add Duchscherer to the rotation

All winter the Orioles have remained steadfast that they will acquire another veteran starter despite the thinned market. They accomplished that goal Sunday night, agreeing to a one-year deal with right-hander Justin Duchscherer.

The deal, pending a physical that will take place Tuesday or Wednesday, is a smaller based contract of $700,000 that will increase to $1.1 million if he makes the team. Duchscherer -who is coming off his second hip surgery — can earn up to $4.5 million if he stays healthy and productive.

“The Orioles were very upfront in their interest in Justin, very candid,” Duchscherer’s agent, Damon Lapa said of Baltimore, who came away impressed enough after watching Friday’s bullpen to make Duchscherer an offer.

The 33-year-old Duchscherer told MLB.com last week that it was pretty “black and white” in that he wanted to go to a team that viewed him as a starter and he preferred to pitch on the East Coast, close to his son who lives in New Jersey. That whittled down the finalists to the Nationals and Orioles, both teams who Lapa said offered the opportunity for his client “to contribute at the middle to top end of the starting rotation.”

“Ultimately, to his perspective Baltimore presented the best set of factors as far as where he wants to go and pitch,” Lapa added. “It was an extremely tough decision…both organizations were fantastic throughout the process and in the pursuit.”

Working in the Orioles favor was their slew of offseason acquisitions, a group that includes Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy and Kevin Gregg, a factor that Lapa said “absolutely” went into his Duchscherer’s decision.

“You look at the way [president of baseball operations] Andy MacPhail and his staff have really remade that club; obviously the [American League East is the] toughest division in baseball,” Lapa said. “But you look at the changes that have been made, I think it’s very suffice to say that at least on paper they are the most improved club in Major League baseball.”

A former 10-game winner, Duchscherer had his 2010 campaign in Oakland cut short, making just five starts before undergoing his second left hip surgery, which involved shaving down some of the bone to make room for cartilage.

He missed nearly all of the 2009 season with after undergoing an arthroscopic procedure on his elbow and being diagnosed with depression, but given that he has spent the winter auditioning for teams, Duchscherer is actually ahead of his typical offseason program.

“Honestly, I feel like I’ve proven [that] when I’m healthy, I’m a very good Major League pitcher,” Duchscherer told MLB.com last week. “The only thing I have to prove is [whether] I can do it over the long term.”

The low-risk signing gives the Orioles an innings-eater to go along with Jeremy Guthrie, taking pressure of the team’s younger starters and creating a logjam of starting pitchers. Guthrie and Duchscherer will be joined by Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta, although Chris Tillman is another possibility. Barring injury or anything unforeseen, Duchscherer’s arrival also means top prospect Zach Britton will likely start the season in Triple-A.

A career 33-25 with a 3.13 ERA, Duchscherer is a two-time All-Star who is known to be a consistent strike-thrower. After coming up as a reliever, he went 14-11 with a 3.01 ERA in 32 career starts, all with Oakland.

The Orioles have not officially commented on Duchscherer’s agreement, although MacPhail said at Saturday’s Fanfest that the team was “pleased” with what they saw from his bullpen. The deal will not be finalized until after a physical, which is important to note given Duchscherer’s injury history.

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