BALTIMORE -- The Orioles' deal with free-agent closer Grant Balfour isn't happening.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette told local media this afternoon that the Orioles are turning their attention elsewhere after team doctors became concerned during Balfour's physical exam this week.
"The Orioles are disappointed we couldn't complete the contract with Grant Balfour, and the reason for that was the club wasn't satisfied with the results of the pre-employment physical exam," Duquette said. "I guess the good news it that we have other options to look at as we look to try to improve our ballclub, but this is a situation where the deal is not going to come together."
The Orioles had agreed to terms with the 35-year-old Balfour on a two-year, $15-million deal on Tuesday pending the physical.
Duquette wouldn't completely rule out approaching Balfour again down the road, but made it clear they are looking to the free-agent market, and possibly a trade, to land their next closer to replace Jim Johnson, who was traded to the Oakland Athletics on Dec. 2.
"We would never say never or close the door, but we're going to turn our attention elsewhere for now to look at some other options to try to staff our team and build a contending team for 2014," Duquette said.
Duquette wouldn't discuss the specific concern the team had with Balfour's physical.
But multiple sources told The Baltimore Sun on Thursday that the issue was with Balfour's surgically repaired right shoulder, which underwent labrum and rotator cuff surgery in 2005 and forced him to miss the entire 2006 season.
"There's not a lot the team can say publicly," he said. "The only thing I can tell you is that the club was not satisfied with the results, and we're not going into the particulars of what the specific club concerns were. I can tell you that the players go through a very, very thorough screening and that our medical people are thorough, and (they) gave us their evaluation. I can also tell you these processes and these opinions vary from club to club and doctor to doctor, but that's really all I can say about the situation."
Other than resolve the closer situation, Duquette said he'd also like to add another hitter, as well as a starting pitcher, and he indicated that the possibility that the Orioles look to an internal option as their next closer is more likely than ever.
"I want to point out that most of these closers like Jim Johnson two years ago, they come to the team as reliable bullpen pitchers and then the manager and the player shows he can handle more responsibility, gives them more responsibility at the end of the game," Duquette said. "That's how these things work. If we have reliable pitchers in our bullpen, I'm sure someone can close out the game. Two years ago, we were looking for a closer, and we had it from the people we had. Who knows? We may do the same thing this year in 2014.
"I think having good pitching on our staff is really the priority," Duquette said. "We're going to continue to look and sign players who will be helpful to team."
While Duquette expressed disappointment in today's news that left-handed reliever Troy Patton has received a 25-game suspension for violation of MLB's drug policy, he believes the club has enough left-handed relief depth to overcome it.
"We have some depth to the left-handed relief," Duquette said. "I like the addition of Chris Jones to the roster, Zach Britton may get an audition for left-handed relief in spring training. I like T.J. McFarland, I like Mike Belfiore, and the addition of a good arm in Kelvin De La Cruz gives us a little bit of depth there. We can take a look at those left-handed pitchers for the second left-handed in the 'pen.
"Brian Matusz has, of course, been our left-on-left pitcher out of the bullpen, and he's been very reliable, so we have some other candidates for that other left-handed pitcher out of the bullpen for (manager) Buck (Showalter) and the coaches to look at this spring."
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