Repeat performance: Duchscherer sidelined

Repeat performance: Duchscherer sidelined

Injury-riddled Duchscherer sidelined again, this time with soreness in his surgically repaired hip

INSIDE PITCH

Justin Duchscherer came to Baltimore with a busy injury history. And through the first week of the exhibition season, he had done little to ease the concerns that came with his signing.

Duchscherer, who made only five starts in the last two seasons, was sidelined during the first week of the exhibition season because of soreness in his surgically repaired left hip.

Manager Buck Showalter said he'd like to get all his pitchers between 20 and 27 innings of work. With no more incidents, Duchscherer would hit that mark.

But to expect no more incidents given his injury-riddled past would be asking a ton from Duchscherer. The expectations in the first place were likely too high for Duchscherer to live up to.

Supporters of the veteran's signing pointed to the former Oakland right-hander's All-Star history. Doubters pointed to the more recent designations, much of that time coming on the disabled list.

The good news for the Orioles is they have options in the event Duchscherer succumbs to injuries to the point he's unable to make the rotation.

Right-hander Jake Arrieta probably has the inside track on the fifth starter's job, with right-hander Chris Tillman and left-hander Zach Britton providing less-experienced alternatives.

Tillman and Britton were earmarked for the Class AAA Norfolk rotation when Duchscherer was signed. Barring an outstanding spring from Britton, Tillman probably would have the inside track if needed in the rotation.

The club also has some less-heralded young arms, such as right-hander Rick VandenHurk and left-hander Troy Patton. And there's always the option to trade for a veteran arm or sign a veteran off the late-March scrap heap.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Koji Uehara received a cortisone injection in his pitching elbow after he was scratched from a scheduled appearance March 2. Uehara, who was in the running for the closer's job with the Orioles after serving in the role late in 2010, expected to be able to pitch within a week. However, the setback could cement RHP Kevin Gregg's grasp on the closer role.

--LHP Brian Matusz had surgery on his pitching hand to remove a wart. The minor procedure was done in Philadelphia during the first week of the Grapefruit League season, and Matusz was expected to be sidelined for only a few days.

--3B Josh Bell has said he's comfortable at first base, enough so that he could crack the big-league roster if the need arises for some extra help at the infield corners. The switch-hitting Bell could provide a left-handed bat to compliment 3B Mark Reynolds and 1B Derrek Lee, both of whom bat right-handed.

--RHP Jason Berken was the only one of 23 Orioles who signed contracts in the first week of Grapefruit League action to take a renewed contract. The other 22 players with limited experience agreed to the contract figures provided by the club. Berken's contract was renewed for a second straight season. Last year, he was being converted from a starter to a reliever. This spring, he's coming off an injury-riddled 2010.

--RHP Alfredo Simon was rejected in his third attempt at being granted bail from his stay in a Dominican prison. The one-time Orioles' closer is facing charges after being arrested as the primary suspect in a New Year's Day murder in the Dominican. Simon is on the restricted list.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Regular season games, in the majors or minors, in which 3B Josh Bell has played first base.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Anything he can do to enhance his versatility is a good thing." -- Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, on 3B Josh Bell playing at first this spring.

ROSTER REPORT

ARRIVALS: RHP Kevin Gregg (free agent from Blue Jays), 1B Derrek Lee (free agent from Braves), RHP Jeremy Accardo (free agent from Blue Jays), 3B Mark Reynolds (trade with Diamondbacks), RHP Mitch Atkins (minor league free agent from Cubs), SS J.J. Hardy (trade with Twins), INF Brendan Harris (trade with Twins), LHP Clay Rapada (minor league free agent from Rangers), INF Nick Green (minor league free agent from Padres), RHP Justin Duchscherer (free agent from A's, pending physical), OF Jeff Fiorentino (minor league free agent, played in Japan in 2010), OF Randy Winn (minor league free agent from Cardinals), DH Vladimir Guerrero (free agent from Rangers).

DEPARTURES: INF Ty Wigginton (free agent, signed with Rockies), RHP David Hernandez (traded to Diamondbacks), RHP Kam Mickolio (traded to Diamondbacks), RHP Matt Albers (free agent, signed with Red Sox), INF Scott Moore (free agent, signed with minor league deal with Cubs), OF Corey Patterson (free agent, signed minor league deal with Blue Jays), 1B Michael Aubrey (free agent, signed minor league deal with Nationals).

PROJECTED ROTATION:

1. RHP Jeremy Guthrie

2. LHP Brian Matusz

3. RHP Justin Duchscherer

4. RHP Brad Bergesen

5. RHP Jake Arrieta

The Orioles' rotation is still young, but the addition of Duchscherer is expected to alleviate some expectations on the unproven raw arms. However, Duchscherer is a question mark, having missed much of the last two seasons because of injuries.

The Orioles have has some exciting depth at Class AAA Norfolk, including RHP Chris Tillman and LHP Zach Britton. Both will get an extended look in Sarasota, but expect -- barring injury -- that both will spend the first two or three months in the minors.

PROJECTED BULLPEN:

RHP Koji Uehara (closer)

RHP Kevin Gregg

RHP Jim Johnson

RHP Jeremy Accardo

RHP Jason Berken

LHP Mike Gonzalez

LHP Mark Hendrickson

Questions remain here. Who will close? Uehara likely gets the first crack after finishing 2010 nicely. He throws strikes, which earns him Buck Showalter's praise.

Gregg was signed to a big contract, though, so the club won't hesitate to go to him if Uehara sputters out of the gate. The identity of the second left-hander may not be determined until the final week of camp, and there are some right-handers with experience who might get a chance.

PROJECTED LINEUP:

1. 2B Brian Roberts

2. RF Nick Markakis

3. 1B Derrek Lee

4. DH Vladimir Guerrero

5. LF Luke Scott

6. 3B Mark Reynolds

7. CF Adam Jones

8. C Matt Wieters

9. SS J.J. Hardy

It's yet to be seen how Buck Showalter will deploy his newfound weapons. In all likelihood, Markakis will bat second or third to open the season. But no longer will he have to hit cleanup.

Reynolds, Jones and Wieters will be interchangeable in the Nos. 6-8 slots in the order. Jones could even hit ninth. He and Wieters are the wild cards for the Orioles lineup in 2011. Regardless of how things pan out, the club enters the spring with a formidable bottom-third of the lineup.

TOP ROOKIES: LHP Zach Britton probably is destined for Class AAA Norfolk. The consensus is, however, that he'll appear in Baltimore this year after going 7-3 with a 2.48 ERA in Class-AA Bowie and 3-4 with a 2.98 ERA in Class AAA Norfolk. C Caleb Joseph stands very little chance of making the club, but is earmarked as a potential back-up catcher of the future. He could use a good spring, after batting .235 with 11 home runs and 51 RBI at Class AA Bowie last season.

MEDICAL WATCH:

--RHP Koji Uehara (sore right elbow) had a cortisone shot March 3 and missed a scheduled Grapefruit League appearance that day. According to the Baltimore Sun, he should return to action within a week.

--LHP Brian Matusz (wart on left middle finger) was scheduled to have the growth removed March 4, and he is likely to miss a Grapefruit League start.

--2B Brian Roberts (neck stiffness) was expected to have X-rays Feb. 23 to determine the extent of the ailment.

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