Tommy Hunter time? Orioles unlikely to sign a closer after botched Grant Balfour deal

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When the Orioles’ contract with Grant Balfour fell apart over concerns about the health of his arm the assumption was that Baltimore would sign a different free agent to take over for Jim Johnson as closer.

However, that hasn’t happened yet and now Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles “are no longer focusing on a potential closer.”

According to Connolly they’re prepared to go into the season with in-house options for ninth-inning duties. In that scenario Tommy Hunter would be the presumed favorite after throwing 86 innings with a 2.81 ERA and 68/14 K/BB ratio in a setup role last season and Ryan Webb could also get a look.

Jonny Venters is back in the majors

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The Rays announced on Wednesday that the club purchased the contract of lefty reliever Jonny Venters from Triple-A Durham. The 33-year-old hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 due to a continuous battle with arm injuries. The Rays note that he has undergone two and a half Tommy John surgeries, which is a number that seems to be in dispute.

Venters signed a minor league contract with the Rays in December. With Durham so far this season, he gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and five walks with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Before the injuries, Venters was among the best relievers in 2010-11. In those two seasons, he posted a combined 1.89 ERA with 189 strikeouts and 82 walks in 171 innings.