Koji Uehara has returned from Japan and is taking his physical today in Baltimore, meaning if all goes well, his one-year, $3 million deal with a vesting option for 2012 could be official later today or tomorrow morning. As we've mentioned, the vesting option will be based on games finished and games appeared in, and as long as Uehara is able to stay healthy for much of the season, he should have no problem reaching it. Whether he closes or is used in a setup role for the Orioles remains to be seen.
Speaking of closers, former Orioles closer Chris Ray remains on the free-agent market after he was non-tendered by the world champion San Francisco Giants. The Orioles have been in contact with Ray's agent, Mark Pieper, about several players, mainly Uehara. However, Ray's name has been at least brought up in the talks between both sides. Pieper has heard from several teams on Ray, and it's still a little early to tell how legitimate the interest is from both sides. Ray, however, said in an e-mail today that he certainly would be interested in pitching for the club again. Ray saved 49 games for the Orioles in 2006 and 2007 before undergoing Tommy John surgery and ultimately being traded to the Texas Rangers for Kevin Millwood last offseason. "Baltimore will always be a special place for me, and of course I would be interested in returning to the Orioles," Ray said. "I see they have made some nice additions to their lineup already this winter."
Jason Berken continues to progress from the labrum tear that prematurely ended his promising 2010 season. He said yesterday that his rehab is going very well and he's able to lift and run "full go." Much of the work that he's putting in is aimed at strengthening the shoulder and back muscles around the labrum. He's on pace to start throwing around Jan. 1, which is the normal time he would start throwing ahead of a season. That's certainly promising news for the Orioles as Berken was their best reliever last season before the injury, and he would be an asset to a bullpen that is riddled with question marks.
Go to mobile.baltimoresun.com to get news on your mobile device. Text BASEBALL to 70701 for Orioles text alerts.