The Orioles are closing in on a minor league deal with veteran first baseman Nick Johnson that would include an invitation to spring training.

A deal could be announced as early as Thursday, an industry source said.

Johnson had his best season with the Nationals in 2006, when he put up a .290/.428/.520 line with 23 homers and 77 RBIs. He's been riddled with injuries over the past few seasons and spent the majority of last season with the Indians' Triple-A team in Columbus, Ohio, hitting .201/.316/.322 in 184 at bats.  

Johnson offers another interesting option at first base, where he has a .992 career fielding percentage. He also owns a career .401 on-base percentage, a statistic that surely made him attractive to Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette.

The club also has agreed to a minor league deal with former Philadelphia Phillies backup catcher Dane Sardinha.

It hasn't been decided whether Sardinha will receive a spring training invitation, but that's fairly incidental considering he'll likely be used in big league camp at times anyway to catch the Orioles' extensive cadre of pitchers.

Sardinha, 32, likely will battle for a spot at Triple-A Norfolk with another veteran backstop, Ronny Paulino, 30.

A second-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 2000, the defensive-minded Sardinha is a career .166 hitter in 151 major league at-bats in parts of six seasons.

The Orioles will also invite outfield prospects L.J. Hoes and Xavier Avery to big league camp. Both spent last season at Double-A Bowie.

Hoes, who has spent most of his minor league career at second base but played left field exclusively last season, put up a .305/.379/.413 line with six homers, 54 RBIs and 16 steals. Avery, a center fielder, put up a .259/.324/.343 line with 31 doubles and 36 stolen bases last season.

Their invitation to big league camp would have been bigger news three years ago, when the Orioles trained in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and minor league camp was in Sarasota. But now that they're near each other, other top prospects, like Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, can come to big league camp for at bats.  

Also, pitcher Brad Bergesen had his arbitration hearing today in St. Petersburg. It was attended by Duquette, who returned to Baltimore on Wednesday night. The Orioles filed for $800,000, and Bergesen filed for $1.2 million. A ruling is expected to be released on Thursday. Bergesen made $434,000 last season.

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