In a conference call with reporters Saturday, recently signed Orioles pitcher Justin Duchscherer spoke candidly about his battle with clinical depression, reiterated his desire to be a starter and expressed excitement to be a teammate of Vladimir Guerrero rather than having to face him.
But perhaps the most encouraging thing he said, at least to Orioles officials who envision him joining the rotation and providing veteran stability behind Jeremy Guthrie, concerned his health, which has forced the two-time All-Star to spend far too much time on the disabled list rather than on the mound.
"I feel as good as I have in probably five years," said Duchscherer (pronounced DUKE-sher), notwithstanding a recent illness that he joked had him talking like a 70-year-old smoker. "So I'm looking forward to finally being healthy."
Duchscherer, 33, passed an extensive physical on Friday and finalized a one-year, incentive-laden deal with the Orioles. He will make $700,000 in a base contract that will increase to $1.1 million whenever he is put on the 25-man roster (that will be pro-rated if it is later than Opening Day). His contract could be worth as much as $4.5 million if he reaches certain incentives.
"If he's healthy, what he does between the lines is something we're in need of," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Duchscherer is 33-25 with a 3.13 ERA in 224 big-league games. As a starter, he is 14-11 with a 3.01 ERA in 32 games, all with Oakland.
However, he has made just five starts since the 2008 season, missing all of 2009 after an elbow injury and a subsequent bout with clinical depression, which he said was a result of a divorce and the separation from his son, who moved, along with his ex-wife to southern New Jersey. Duchscherer said that one of the reasons that he signed with the Orioles was to be closer to his son.
He also did not pitch last season after April 29, and eventually had surgery to correct a femoral acetabular impingement in his left hip. But he's hopeful that the injuries are behind him. The Orioles watched him throw a bullpen session last month and came away impressed, prompting president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail to make the pitcher an offer.
"I'm super excited to be part of the organization," Duchscherer said. "I'm excited for a change of scenery."