Orioles nearing a deal with closer Grant Balfour

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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.

Rays pitcher Brent Honeywell leaves BP session with possible injury

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This is not good: Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rays pitcher Brent Honeywell cut short a bullpen session this morning and left the field with a trainer. Topkin says Honeywell was “clearly upset” as he made his way into the clubhouse and “cursed loudly a few times.”

Obviously you don’t want to assume the worst, but that’s often the behavior of a pitcher who experienced a serious injury. We will get updates later and will provide an update when we hear.

UPDATE:

Honeywell, probably the Rays’ top prospect, is slated to make his major league debut early this season, though possibly not for a few weeks into the season due to off days. Eventually, though, it is assumed he’d slot in someplace behind Chris Archer, Matt Andriese, Nathan Eovaldi, Jake Faria, and Blake Snell, either as a young-David Price-style swingman, a spot starter or a regular starter at some point.

Last year Honeywell posted a 3.49 ERA and 172/35 K/BB ratio in 136. innings in 26 starts between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.