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O's add Antonelli, chase Chong; VandenHurk mourns Halman

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In an ongoing attempt to build depth, the Orioles added infielder Matt Antonelli to their 40-man roster Monday after he passed his physical and are heavily pursuing 33-year-old right-hander Chong Tae-Hyon, who closed out South Korea's 2008 Gold medal victory over Cuba in the Summer Olympics.

A submariner — Duquette described his delivery as "unorthodox" — Chong has pitched with the SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization since 2001. Although it was initially reported by at least one media outlet that the Orioles had agreed to a deal with Chong, Duquette said Monday evening that nothing was official.

"He is one of those we are working on. We are trying to see if we can get that resolved," Duquette said. "He is a first class pitcher. He was on the mound when Korea won the Olympic games. … He has pitched for years at the highest level of competition available to him."

Antonelli, a former first-rounder of the San Diego Padres who played at Triple-A with the Washington Nationals in 2011, will provide depth in the infield. The 26-year-old right-handed hitter agreed to a major-league deal and will compete for a big-league spot in spring training.

"The signing of Antonelli is a good one for us. He has a good on-base percentage, he is a good fit for us because he can play both second base and third base and I think he'll be a favorite of the fans. He brings a lot to the party," Duquette said. "He is starting to fulfill the vast potential that San Diego saw in him when they took him No. 1."

The 17th pick overall in 2006 out of Wake Forest University, Antonelli was once highly touted but injuries and offensive troubles at Triple-A derailed his career. He hit just .193 in 57 at-bats with the Padres in 2008 and the club eventually didn't offer him a contract after the 2010 season. He had a solid year at Triple-A Syracuse in 2011, hitting .297 with a .393 on-base percentage and eight homers in 300 at-bats.

In other baseball news, Seattle Mariners' outfielder Greg Halman was found stabbed to death in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on Monday morning. Halman's 22-year-old brother has been arrested, according to Dutch police.

The news was particularly devastating to Orioles right-hander Rick VandenHurk, who was good friends with his fellow Dutch big leaguer.

"I looked at my phone and couldn't believe all the messages and phone calls I had," VandenHurk said on Monday. "My dad had called me right away. He brought me the news. I have no words. I can't believe it."

VandenHurk and Halman were together earlier this month as part of a baseball instruction tour throughout Europe that VandenHurk and his father have organized for two offseasons. VandenHurk and Halman, along with Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder and several others, visited Amsterdam, Rome and Prague, teaching baseball to kids.

"I came back on November 13, that whole week before I was with him every hour of the day," VandenHurk said. "I literally spent almost every minute of every day with him. We were close. We'd go out to dinner, we'd see the sights and go out at night. We shared a lot with each other."

Halman and VandenHurk had been friends since they were 7, playing baseball with and against each other — and then pulling for each other to make the majors and stick there.

"We always shared the same passion for the big leagues. When we both signed, we kept in touch with each other. We'd see each other in the offseason and tried to keep in touch during the season," he said. "Obviously, I was very happy for him when he made it to the big leagues."

Halman, who batted .207 in 44 games over parts of two seasons with the Mariners, had prodigious power. He hit 33 homers in 112 games with Triple-A Tacoma in 2010. But VandenHurk will remember his buddy more for his big personality.

"He was always joking around, keeping you loose. He had a big passion for baseball and he really wanted to succeed," VandenHurk said. "He was just a great guy. That something like this has happened, I can't describe it. It really is unbelievable."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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