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.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.