It was reported last month that the condition of Grant Balfour’s right shoulder was the reason behind the Orioles backing out of a two-year, $15 million contract, but it turns out that they had other health concerns in mind.
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the “red flags” that came up were actually about Balfour’s wrist and knee. Rays team doctor Koco Eaton didn’t find anything wrong with Balfour’s shoulder after the deal with the Orioles blew up, so this at least adds some clarity to the situation.
While it’s unclear which knee was a concern to the Orioles, it’s worth noting that Balfour required right knee surgery last February. He went on to post a 2.59 ERA and 72/27 K/BB ratio over 62 2/3 innings while notching 38 saves in 41 chances.
As Balfour continues to look for an opportunity elsewhere, the Orioles appear content to move forward with in-house options at closer. Tommy Hunter is considered the favorite for the role.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.
Veteran Omar Infante has spent the overwhelming majority of his career as an infielder, but the Tigers plan to give him some playing time in center field this spring. The Tigers’ center field situation is still murky and adding more versatility would increase Infante’s odds of making the roster.
Infante, 35, signed a minor league deal with the Tigers in December. He played 39 games for the Royals last season, batting .239/.279/.321 in 149 plate appearances while playing second base exclusively. Infante last played in the outfield in 2010 with the Braves, and last played center field specifically in ’09 with the Braves.
The Tigers currently have Mikie Mahtook, Tyler Collins, and JaCoby Jones at the top of their center field depth chart. It is not what one would call “optimal.”