“I understand their concerns completely,” Eaton said. “And unfortunately, these tests do not predict the future. All they do is give us a snapshot. But I could look at him and say, ‘You’re just as healthy today as you were three years ago when you were going to pitch for Oakland A’s.’ That’s the thing I want to be clear about Grant.”
Tim Kremchek, the Cincinnati Reds’ medical director and renowned orthopedic surgeon, performed right elbow and shoulder surgeries on Balfour in 2005.
At the request of Balfour’s agent, Kremchek said he received the MRIs of Balfour’s elbow and shoulder on Friday. The MRIs were taken this week at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Kremchek said he was surprised how good Balfour’s arm looked, given that he has been pitching for years after the initial surgery.
“It looked great and I was glad for him. I was pleasantly shocked,” Kremchek said. “That’s awesome, and then I heard [Orioles’ doctors] failed him. I was like, ‘Whoa.’ Either I am missing something or they are. Because I didn’t bat an eye when I saw it.”
Kremchek said he has reviewed worse MRIs from pitchers who have never had surgeries or arm symptoms — and he has passed them.
Duquette didn’t completely close the door on Balfour, but the Orioles are expected to turn their sights to former Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney, according to an industry source.
The Orioles had several discussions with Rodney before reaching terms with Balfour, but nothing progressed.
Rodney, 36, saved 85 games in 95 opportunities in the past two seasons for the Rays.
Chris Perez, a 28-year-old right-hander who saved 25 games with the Cleveland Indians in 2013, is also available. The Orioles had also been monitoring the returns of former Boston Red Sox pitchers Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey from arm injuries.
While Duquette said he remains confident that quality closer options remain in a dwindling free-agent market, he also indicated that the Orioles might ultimately turn to an internal option. Set-up man Tommy Hunter would likely top the list of internal candidates.
“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, as 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.”