Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports is reporting that free agent reliever Grant Balfour is considering filing a grievance over the Orioles’ recent decision to back out of a two-year, $15 million contract. Balfour contends he is as healthy as ever, and multiple doctors agree with him.
It is very hard to see what the Orioles are seeing, especially when no one else is seeing it. Remember that scene in Mallrats where the guy is staring at the painting looking for the hidden drawing, and everybody else walks by and sees it immediately? That’s the Orioles.
Balfour has pitched in at least 50 games per season dating back to 2008, his first full, healthy season after undergoing labrum and rotator cuff surgery in September 2005. He has compiled a 2.74 ERA in 380.1 relief innings with a 27 percent strikeout rate and nine percent walk rate. The O’s were getting an elite closer at a market rate — the Padres are paying Joaquin Benoit just about what the Orioles would have paid Balfour — so they must have seen something, real or not, that they didn’t like.
Balfour’s agent, Seth Levinson of ACES, responded to the situation in a press release. Via Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun:
“Grant is completely healthy and that was told to us today by Dr. Koco Eaton, a well-respected club physician (with the Tampa Bay Rays). Dr. Eaton’s opinion is based upon the fact that the MRI which was taken today is the same as the MRI which was taken in 2011 as a condition of the three-year contract that Grant signed with the A’s. Dr. Tim Kremchek (Cincinnati Reds), another well-respected club physician, reviewed the Orioles’ medical report and advised that he is remarkably impressed that there has been little change in Grant’s arm for almost 10 years. Now factor into the equation that Grant was a 2013 All-Star, pitched 65 games and another 3 scoreless innings in the postseason with a 94-95 mph fastball. The only reasonable conclusion is that Grant is healthy and the Orioles at the last moment changed their minds.”
Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Orioles have turned their attention to Fernando Rodney in the meantime.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.