Don’t expect the Orioles to resolve their closer situation any time soon. As the club tries to distance itself from the mess the situation with Grant Balfour created, the Orioles' external search still seems to be focused on free-agent right-hander Fernando Rodney. Interest in Rodney has reportedly picked up, both in general and from the Orioles, but it appears that the sides are far apart. The possibility of the Orioles opening spring training with Tommy Hunter as the team's closer is becoming more real by the day. Once the team dealt 50-save closer Jim Johnson to Oakland, the club saw Hunter as a fallback option. But now he’s turning into much more of a possibility. “We have dependable relievers,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. “I’m sure we can find somebody to get the last couple outs.” The free-agent closer market is getting thin. And a lot of closing candidates are signing with teams to take on non-closer roles. Over the weekend, former Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he likely won’t get to close over Kenley Jansen. While the Orioles weren’t very interested in Perez, earlier this month former St. Louis Cardinals closer Edward Mujica, who was a top Orioles target, opted to join a stacked bullpen in Boston to set up Red Sox closer Koji Uehara. Last week, Joaquin Benoit signed with the San Diego Padres to serve as a set-up man for closer Huston Street. One of the things the Orioles can offer over some other teams is that they’re looking to hand the closer's role to somebody. Ideally, they'll bring a late-inning pitcher from outside the organization and hand him the ninth-inning role, without competition or controversy, so they can keep Hunter, Darren O’Day and new acquisition Ryan Webb in set-up roles. There aren’t many closer jobs out there -- and there are even fewer among teams that are supposed to contend. Other than the Orioles, only the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros have more pressing needs for closers right now. Even though other teams could still seek upgrades, the Orioles' closer job would seem to be among the most attractive to a free agent -- take away the stringent medical standards that were spotlighted last week with Balfour.
Possibility of Orioles using Tommy Hunter at closer looking more likely each day
Baltimore Sun | Dec 24