BALTIMORE -- The Orioles selected left-hander T.J. McFarland from the Indians during the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings, and while it's typically easier to retain those players by stashing them in the bullpen, the plan remains to give the 23-year-old a look as a starter this spring.
"We weren't sure where the market was going on left-handed pitching," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said of the decision to take McFarland. "We weren't sure if we were going to be in a position to re-sign [lefty Joe] Saunders or not."
McFarland went 8-6 with a 4.82 ERA in 17 starts at Triple-A Columbus, allowing 55 earned runs on 112 hits and 33 walks in 102 2/3 innings. The southpaw started the season with Double-A Akron, going 8-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 10 starts, including a complete-game effort, before being promoted.
As for the possibility of adding Saunders?
"He's still an option," Duquette said of adding the veteran to a deep list of rotation candidates. "He's still out there, but we're going to take a look at Zach Britton as a starter in Spring Training, probably take a look at [Brian] Matusz as a starter in Spring Training and take a look at McFarland. And [Tsuyoshi] Wada is still rehabbing, so that's an option. We do have some starters that performed pretty well."
The club also projects to have Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen in the Opening Day rotation, with Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and Steve Johnson making strong cases to join them after turning in solid 2012 seasons. Tommy Hunter and Jake Arrieta are two other possible rotation options currently on the Orioles' roster.
"I think Hunter really found a niche in relief," Duquette said. "I think long term Jake Arrieta would like to establish himself as a starter, but we aren't going to be able to have all these guys as starters."
Orioles' top prospects could reach Majors in 2013
BALTIMORE -- Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette reiterated on Thursday that he's confident in the continued success of the organization keeping the core of the 2012 roster intact.
Duquette also strongly hinted that the O's top prospects could reach the Majors this season.
"[Jonathan] Schoop had a good winter in Arizona, and we got [Dylan] Bundy and [Kevin] Gausman knocking on the door," Duquette said.
Bundy and Gausman are ranked the club's top two prospects according to MLB.com, and the organization is hopeful they will develop into the frontline starter missing from the Orioles' current roster. Bundy was bumped up to Class A Frederick in May after an incredible start to his pro career at Class A Delmarva. The 20-year-old was promoted to Double-A Bowie in mid-August, and he earned a callup to the big leagues on Sept. 19. Gausman, who just turned 22, was the first college pitcher taken in last year's Draft and appeared in five Minor League games after signing.
The duo of young righties will have to prove they can have success at Double-A, as Duquette has said in the past, but both Bundy and Gausman could arrive in Baltimore this year. Schoop will be in Major League camp, but given the team's roster construction, it would be a reach to consider him in the running for an Opening Day spot. Still, a solid Minor League season could boost his stock, and Duquette shocked the baseball world last year when he promoted shortstop Manny Machado from Double-A to the Majors and moved him to third base.
Duquette also singled out the efforts of some of the current Orioles pitchers and has slowly accumulated enough depth in the organization to not rush Bundy or Gausman through the Minors.
"The young starting pitchers we had at the end of the year -- I'm talking specifically about [Chris] Tillman, [Miguel] Gonzalez and Steve Johnson -- they pitched as good as any three young starters in the league," Duquette said. "They've had the benefit of significant experience up here, so I think our starting rotation, in terms of depth, is in pretty good shape going forward."
Pitcher Jason Hammel, who had right knee surgery last season, hasn't had any issues this winter and is doing fine with his rehab, Duquette said.
Outfielder Nolan Reimold was recently cleared to begin baseball activities, the final step in his rehab from season-ending neck surgery. Reimold will stick to his regular offseason schedule and is expected to be healthy for Spring Training.
Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts and Matt Wieters are among those working out at the Orioles' Spring Training facility in Sarasota, Fla. Roberts is coming off season-ending hip surgery, while Markakis had a broken left thumb.
Non-roster invitee Zach Braddock, who was released by the Brewers in early May, did not pitch at all last season, according to Duquette.
"He was working on whatever he needed to work on," Duquette said of Braddock, who has dealt with personal issues, including anxiety and a sleep disorder. "He took some time off."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.