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With sense of urgency, O's begin 2018 quest

MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles had one busy spring.

Most notably, the addition of three starters -- Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman -- is expected to help bolster one of baseball's worst starting rotations in 2017. The O's are in make-or-break-territory this year, with big names like Adam Jones, Manny Machado -- who will move to shortstop -- Zach Britton and Brad Brach set to become free agents in the offseason. The contracts of manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette are also up after this season.

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles had one busy spring.

Most notably, the addition of three starters -- Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman -- is expected to help bolster one of baseball's worst starting rotations in 2017. The O's are in make-or-break-territory this year, with big names like Adam Jones, Manny Machado -- who will move to shortstop -- Zach Britton and Brad Brach set to become free agents in the offseason. The contracts of manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette are also up after this season.

It is, in many ways, now or never for the Orioles to make a postseason run.

That quest starts on Thursday, when they open the season at Camden Yards against the Twins.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Machado on moving to SS, Cobb

What's the goal?
To return to prominence. The O's have made the postseason every other year recently, and after finishing in the American League East basement in 2017, they would like to see that trend continue. How far can they go? The O's have defied critics before, and they're prepared to do so again to get into October.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

What's the plan?
Pitch better, much better, in that rotation. If the Orioles can do that, they'll be in a lot more games and avoid overusing the bullpen. They'll also need sluggers Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo -- who will open the season on the disabled list -- to return to form.

The Yankees are stacked, and the Red Sox look equally dangerous. For the O's to have a shot at upending either club, or as an AL Wild Card team, there's little margin for error. Cobb will be relied on to help head up the rotation, as will Opening Day starter Dylan Bundy. The Orioles should be bolstered by the return of All-Star closer Britton in June.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Britton on returning from injury

What could go wrong?
The O's all-or-nothing lineup can be frustrating, and the team's lack of left-handed bats can often be a problem. If the rotation additions struggle to live up to expectations, things could go south quickly as the Orioles reach into their pitching depth. With all of the team's pending free agents, being out of the race by July could also promote a midseason fire sale in an attempt to get talent for players like Machado or Brach.

Who might surprise?
Rookie catcher Chance Sisco has made the team, and his bat looked solid when he came up in September. Starter Kevin Gausman is trying to rebound from a poor first half last year, while Machado has shown some serious skills in his new position. There's also the chance that Tim Beckham, who will move to third with Machado at short, exceeds expectations.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Gausman on offseason, Halladay

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

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