By Dan Connolly
The Baltimore Sun
6:00 AM EST, February 7, 2013
As I wrote for Thursday’s newspaper, right-hander Jair Jurrjens believes he and the Orioles are “getting close” to finalizing a deal, which would put the free agent in a position to compete for a spot in the Orioles’ rotation this spring.
It has been nearly two weeks since it was first reported the sides had agreed to terms pending a physical. But we all knew the physical wouldn’t be routine. Jurrjens is a free agent because the Atlanta Braves did not tender him a contract after a woeful 2012 -- and there are some that believe he didn’t pitch well because he wasn’t healthy.
Jurrjens’ camp says his drop in productivity -- and decline in velocity -- is a direct result of having weakness in his surgically repaired right knee, which he says is now “feeling great.”
Any team would want to make sure that knee is OK before signing on the dotted line. And these are the Orioles, who are well-known for scrutinizing a potential player’s health. Their exams are notorious. One former Oriole told me after taking a club physical that he half-expected to be sent “to Pimlico to run furlongs.” (That’s one of my favorite quotes of all-time, but I don’t think I’ve ever attributed it to the player at his request. A real shame).
So you knew a Jurrjens-Orioles marriage would be a tenuous proposition. The question still remains whether the deal gets done. Jurrjens thinks so. Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette will only say that it is an ongoing process.
But there is a sense from some within the organization that the Orioles’ doctors may not sign off on Jurrjens’ health. My guess is it gets done, but no question the Orioles will vet the reports thoroughly.
By the way, Jurrjens told me he still hasn’t officially made up his mind whether to pitch for Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, but, as it has been reported several times, the safe bet is that he won’t.
** Former Oriole Luke Scott officially re-signed with the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday. He’ll receive a one-year, $2.75 million deal with the potential of making up to $750,000 more if he reaches certain plate appearance bonuses (topping out at 550 plate appearances).
Scott, who was the Most Valuable Oriole in 2010 but didn’t re-sign after an injury-marred 2011 season, batted .229 with 14 homers in 344 plate appearances in 2012 with the Rays.
The Orioles were searching for power this offseason and Scott was popular within the Orioles’ clubhouse and with (most of) the team’s fans during his four seasons in Baltimore. But the club seemingly had no real interest in adding him to the mix in 2013.
Why? Partially because he’s 34, left-handed and barely played in the field last year (six games at first base), so, besides the power potential, there is not an obvious fit. But there’s also a sense that now that this team won in 2012 it is moving on from its recent losing past.
Don’t get me wrong, Duquette doesn’t shy away from recycling and will give chances to anyone -- including ex-Orioles -- if he thinks they can help the team and can fit into the clubhouse (see lefty Mark Hendrickson). But those are low-level, low-risk, low-money deals.
Scott still has a chance to earn $3.5 million with the Rays in 2013, and that’s just not the kind of deal Duquette is making these days.
** The Orioles have yet to settle with any of their three remaining arbitration-eligible players: pitchers Jim Johnson, Jason Hammel and Darren O’Day. All three are scheduled for hearings the week of Feb. 18 in Phoenix. The Orioles have been rather dominant in arbitration hearings over the years, but Duquette would prefer to settle with all three. I’d be very surprised if one or two don’t settle as the hearing dates get closer.
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