Orioles nearing a deal with closer Grant Balfour


Grant Balfour was said to be close to signing with the Orioles a week ago and now Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the two sides are on the verge of a two-year deal.

Balfour is 36 years old, but based on his performance as the A’s closer during the past two seasons he’s likely to be an upgrade over Jim Johnson in the ninth-inning role. This year Balfour saved 38 games with a 2.59 ERA and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings, holding opponents to a .206 batting average.

Johnson racked up 50-plus saves in back-to-back seasons, but if the Orioles give Balfour that many save chances he’ll do that too. And probably with a lot more strikeouts and a lot less fan anxiety.

UPDATE: Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com says the two-year deal is worth $14 million.

Clayton Kershaw completes spring training with a 0.00 ERA

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Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.

In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.

The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.

The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.