Banks signs minor league deal with Orioles

The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette had a special visitor at the Ed Smith Stadium complex on Tuesday morning.

Former major league star Gary Sheffield came to Orioles spring training to see Duquette, who signed Sheffield — a 1986 first-round draft pick out of a Tampa high school — to his first pro contract with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Sheffield, now working as an agent, brought with him free-agent pitcher Josh Banks, who was looking for a tryout.

And by mid-afternoon, the Orioles had signed the former Severna Park star to a minor league contract. The right-hander will report to the team’s minor league camp at Twin Lakes Park but has been told he will pitch in some major league games.

Banks, who has pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres and Houston Astros, flew to Florida on Monday night and pitched in front of Orioles director of player personnel John Stockstill and scout Bruce Kison.

“He’s a local kid, and he went and pitched effectively in winter ball and showed he was healthy,” said Duquette, who has said he would like to gather more home-grown players in the organization.

Banks spent several months pitching for Dominican Winter League champion Escogido, which is run by former Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs star Moises Alou.

“It's pretty surreal,” Banks said. “I actually wore old Orioles uniforms when I pitched for the Oriolelanders [high school all-star team].”

Banks, 29, said he also received interest from the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees.

“I had a couple of other offers,” he said, “but [Sheffield] thinks this is the best opportunity for me.”

Duquette said Banks was brought to the Orioles’ attention by Sheffield, who also represents major league pitcher Jason Grilli.

“[Sheffield] brought him here,” Duquette said, “because he sees the opportunity for pitchers to help our major league team. So Gary's been paying attention, I'll tell you that.”

The Blue Jays selected Banks out of Florida International in the second round of the 2003 amateur draft. His best major league season came in 2008, when he was 3-6 with a 4.75 ERA in 17 games (14 starts) with the Padres.

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