MLB.com: The Orioles added Suk-min Yoon, but you've stressed the importance of adding a veteran pitcher. Is that still on the agenda this spring?
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette: We've been trying to add pitching to our club, and we are going to continue to work on that before we get going here. Beyond that, we probably have to look for some answers to pitching from within the team. We do have some good young pitchers that are starting to get some recognition and exposure. But people will become more familiar with them as we get going.
Our everyday ballclub is pretty good. We just got to get some more depth to our pitching staff, some more definition to our bullpen.
MLB.com: When you came here, part of the emphasis was on improving the Minor League system and international recruiting. Do you feel like those facets of the organization are in better shape now than when you arrived?
Duquette: I think we are making good progress on international recruiting. The Wei-Yin Chen signing really helped our Major League ballclub. He's given us two strong years. I think you will see more contributions on the international market to our ballclub in the next couple years. (Executive director of international recruiting) Fred Ferreira has done a great job with his recruiting. He also signed Miguel Gonzalez after watching him throw in the Mexican League, so there's a couple of starting pitchers that have come our way from the international market. He signed Henry Urrutia and he got to the big leagues quickly, and I think you are going to see a good contribution to our team from Henry this year. (Ferreira) continues to sign guys, the two young guys we signed recently are very gifted, (17-year-olds) Jomar Reyes and Carlos Diaz. … So you will see some more contributions from the international recruiting, but so far we are making good progress in that.
The other part, our farm system is starting to develop a good core base of talent for our Major League team. (Director of player development) Brian Graham got recognized with the Player Development Award at the past Winter Meetings and (director of pitching development) Rick Peterson was recognized by the American Sports Medicine Institute with the James Andrews Award recently. The leadership of the player development is good. (Director of Minor League operations) Kent Qualls is a real professional with good success at developing success. And you are starting to see the players being recognized. Our Arizona Fall League team won the league.
We've got the right people in the right job, and they are doing good jobs to help the Orioles have a consistent player-development operation. Once we do that consistently, we will be able to draw on that operation for our Major League team for good players and also for trades.
MLB.com: But is it tempting with where you are with the core of this team to preach patience and not sign any big free agents, particularly given all the activity with teams around you?
Duquette: (Laughs) We want to win just as much as anybody. Our desire to win is there, and everybody, from Buck to the rest of the staff, the desire is there. We will keep working to build ourselves a good solid pitching staff so we can compete. This is a tough division, so you've got to be tough year in, year out.
MLB.com: Is that what it comes down to when you talk about success in the American League East? Pitching?
Duquette: That's going to be part of it. But the veteran leadership within the pitching staff, Chris Tillman, Chen, Gonzalez, Bud Norris, they are all capable pitchers. Dave Wallace is a really top quality pitching instructor, and he's been able to help a number of pitchers over his career.
MLB.com: Is it possible for this organization to keep the core it has now intact?
Duquette: We are going to do our best. I think the important thing is we put together a good team year in and year out and we build a perennially contending team. Because if you do that, then eventually we are going to knock on the door, get into the playoffs, and we will have the right mix to get into the championship and bring it home for the fans of Baltimore.
The fans have been great, very supportive, very patient and they've come out and really connected with this group. I think they really understand the work ethic of the team. They understand that the best players are going to come through the farm system and they are going to get a chance to see our players nearby at the Minor League teams around Baltimore. It's a great asset. … It's a homegrown operation.
MLB.com: You've talked about wanting to keep shortstop J.J. Hardy around. Are there any extension talks yet?
Duquette: We are going to work on that in the spring. We are not going to talk about it publicly, but it's on our spring agenda.
Our priority is on having a good team. And in J.J.'s case, he's done a very good job for the team. And we told him we would address it before the season starts.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli.