Grant Balfour’s deal with Orioles in “serious jeopardy” due to shoulder issue


The Orioles reportedly reached a two-year, $15 million deal with free agent closer Grant Balfour earlier this week, but the agreement has hit a snag.

According to Roch Kubatko of, Balfour’s deal with Baltimore is in serious jeopardy due to issues with his physical that “need to be resolved.” While the signing was supposed to be announced today, there’s now a chance that it won’t happen at all. Kubatko hears that official word one way or the other could come by tomorrow.

The nature of Balfour’s issue isn’t yet known. The 35-year-old didn’t spend any time on the disabled list this past season, but he did have knee surgery during spring training. He previously had Tommy John surgery in 2005 and surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff in 2006.

John Axford and Joaquin Benoit have both signed elsewhere this week, so if the Orioles are forced to move on from Balfour, they will likely consider names like Fernando Rodney and Chris Perez. Kubatko hears that they have checked the medical records on Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan, but neither pitcher is expected to be ready for the start of the season.

UPDATE: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the issue is with Balfour’s shoulder. As we mentioned above, he previously had surgery to repair his labrum and rotator cuff, but hasn’t had any problems since.

Shohei Ohtani is having a brutal spring training

Getty Images

Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.

Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.

With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.

As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.

As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.

I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.