BALTIMORE -- 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 two-time All-Star right-hander Justin Duchscherer.
Duchscherer's deal, made official Friday after a rigorous two-day physical, is for a base salary 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, which the right-hander is confident he can be.
"I feel as good as I have in probably five years," Duchscherer said on a conference call Saturday morning. "So I'm looking forward to finally being healthy."
The 33-year-old Duchscherer has said all winter that he wanted to go to a team that viewed him as a starter, and that he preferred to pitch on the East Coast since his son lives in New Jersey. After rehabbing his hip and auditioning for teams, he whittled down the finalists to the Nationals and Orioles. Ultimately, Baltimore's better location, and the opportunity to play in the American League and avoid putting more of a physical toll on his body, won out.
"I'm super-excited to be part of the organization," said Duchscherer, who also made note of his gratitude to an Oakland club that stuck with him through several injuries and clinical depression.
"I'm excited for a change of scenery."
A former 10-game winner, Duchscherer had his 2010 campaign in Oakland cut short, making just five starts before undergoing his left hip surgery, which involved shaving down some of the bone to make room for cartilage. He missed nearly all of the '09 season after undergoing an arthroscopic procedure on his right 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.
The low-risk signing gives the Orioles a veteran presence to go along with Jeremy Guthrie, taking pressure off the team's younger starters. Guthrie and Duchscherer will be joined in the rotation by Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta, though Chris Tillman is another possibility for the fifth starting spot. Barring injury or anything unforeseen, Duchscherer's arrival also means top prospect Zach Britton will likely begin the season in Triple-A.
Asked again Saturday morning about his preference to start over pitching out of the bullpen, Duchscherer explained the answer is two-fold. First, it's better for his hip to get a chance to recover and pitch every five days, and second, his stuff -- a four-pitch arsenal that is more of the "everything but the kitchen-sink" variety -- plays better as a starter.
"Mentally and physically, it just matches up better to what abilities I have, as opposed to relieving," Duchscherer said.
After coming up as a reliever, he has gone 14-11 with a 3.01 ERA in 32 career starts, all but two with Oakland. Known as a consistent strike-thrower who specializes in outsmarting hitters, Duchscherer has a career record of 33-25 with a 3.13 ERA.
While Duchscherer admitted he isn't very familiar with the Orioles club, he did have high praise on Saturday for Guthrie and Matusz, as well as the slew of new offseason acquisitions president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail has brought to Baltimore, a group that includes Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy and Kevin Gregg.
As for Friday night's news that the O's had reached an agreement with free agent Vladimir Guerrero, Duchscherer -- who saw plenty of the veteran slugger in the American League West -- said he was "glad to not have to face him" from the opposing dugout.
" [In Oakland] we were always known as a pitching team when I was there, so I feel like sometimes when you go out there and give up two, three runs, you knew you'd have a battle on your hands," Duchscherer said. "[Having a deep lineup] takes the pressure off when you go out there and you know you don't have to be perfect every pitch."
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.