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Former Orioles relievers find new organizations

According to the latest list of minor league transactions on the Baseball America Web site, two former Orioles relief pitchers have signed with new organizations.

Former Orioles left-hander Kurt Birkins agreed to a minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies, while right-hander Winston Abreu signed with the Tampa Bay Rays.

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The Orioles selected Birkins in the 33rd round of the 2000 MLB draft. He was 6-4 with a 6.61 ERA in two major league seasons for the Orioles. His best season was in 2006, when the 28-year-old reliever was 5-2 with a 4.94 ERA in 35 appearances.

Birkins was selected off waivers by Tampa Bay in October 2007. He looked strong in six appearances for the Rays at the beginning of the 2008 season. Birkins had a 0.90 ERA in 10 innings before being sent back to the Triple-A Durham Bulls. In 31 games for the Bulls, however, Birkins struggled to repeat those impressive numbers. He was 2-3 with a 7.52 ERA and walked 28 hitters in 40 2/3 innings.

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The Orioles signed Abreu as a free agent in December 2005, and he made seven appearances for the team in 2006. Abreu allowed 10 runs (nine earned) in eight innings, and he became a free agent following the season.

Abreu pitched in the Washington Nationals' minor league system in 2007, as well as two stints in the major leagues. He was 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA and five saves in 37 appearances for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers. In 26 games for the Nationals, Abreu was 0-1 with a 5.93 ERA.

The 31-year-old relief pitcher played for the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan during the 2008 season. Abreu had a 3.32 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings.

The blog post also mentions that the Orioles have agreed to terms on a minor league deal with Japanese pitcher Ryohei Tanaka.

Tanaka is a 26-year-old right-hander who has pitched primarily in the minor leagues in Japan. Chiba Lotte selected Tanaka in the first round in 2001. He had an 8.10 ERA in five appearances for the Marines during the 2003 season, which was his only time in the big leagues. Tanaka had five strikeouts and 10 walks in 10 innings.

Overall, the Orioles' acquisition of Tanaka probably won't make a difference -- at least on paper.

While the Orioles shouldn't count on him to make a contribution in the major leagues, the move shows that the organization is serious about making waves in Japan. The idea that the team is able to sign several Japanese players will help the Orioles build long-term success in the international scouting department.

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