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A couple of Orioles fans submitted 38,000 All-Star Game ballots

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The headline says 12,500, but that was just the last batch of ballots that 19-year-olds Christian Walston and Kelsey Thomas brought to Camden Yards. They submitted 38,000 in all, according to this City Paper article. Why?

Christian Walston, 19 and Kelsey Thomas also 19, are 13-game plan season-ticket holders from Crisfield, MD and Temperance, VA respectively, who were turning in their ballots as part of the Orioles’ Vote-Orange program, that rewards ballot-box stuffers with all sorts of team swag for ensuring that the Birds will be well-represented at the mid-summer classic taking place at Minnesota’s Target Field on july 15, 2014.

Walston and Thomas are getting a 12-person catered suite for an upcoming, game at Oriole Park.

Good for them! Sounds like a lot of work and a lot of fun and it’s a pretty spiffy way to show the love for their favorite team (all 38,000 ballots were straight-ticket Orioles ballots).

Of course, the only thing that bugs me about this is that while everything else about the All-Star Game is geared toward fun and fan-friendly events — as it should be, by the way — Major League Baseball still insists on making the All-Star Game decide which league gets home field advantage in the World Series. Having this one actually significant matter remain a part of things always makes me look at fun stuff like what these two kids have done with a twinge of angst.

Bud Selig got embarrassed on national television by an All-Star Game tie over a decade ago and so he made a rule to make that not happen anymore. Except the rule has done absolutely nothing to make the leagues and players treat the All-Star Game more seriously than they had been and now makes an increasingly unimportant exhibition/celebration determine a thing that actually matters a whole lot. I’m not saying these 38,000 votes makes a difference to all of this, but I do have to wonder why, other than Bud Selig’s pride, we are sticking with this dumb home field advantage rule.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.