The Orioles have signed left-handed pitcher Joe Saunders to a minor league deal and the Virginia native will report to Triple-A Norfolk on Monday.
Although he has never relieved in his 229-game, big league career, the Orioles are, at least initially, planning to put him the bullpen at Norfolk to see if he can adapt into that role.
Saunders, 33, spent two months with the Orioles in 2012, starting and winning the club's first playoff game in 15 years. Saunders allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings against the defending American League champion Texas Rangers in Arlington as the Orioles won the first one-game Wild Card playoff in AL history. Overall, Saunders was 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven regular season starts with the Orioles after being traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Matt Lindstrom in Aug. 2012.
Saunders left as a free agent after that season, going to Seattle where he was 11-16 with a 5.26 ERA in 32 starts for the Mariners. Saunders made eight starts for the Texas Rangers this year, losing all five decisions and posting a 6.13 ERA. His last game this season was at Camden Yards on June 30 when he was rocked for seven runs, including four homers, in five innings pitched. He was designated for assignment the next day by the Rangers, who officially released him July 4.
Saunders signed with the Royals, posted a 6.75 ERA in four starts at Triple-A Omaha and was released again Tuesday.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette has a history of signing veterans to minor league deals in hopes they can return to form. It's expected that the Orioles will make a serious run at former closer Jim Johnson, who was released by the Oakland A's on Friday and may be willing to sign a minor league deal with his former club.
Triple-A Norfolk will have to soon make some pitching moves. Relievers Ryan Webb and Preston Guilmet will soon join the Tides and starter Suk-Min Yoon was activated from the disabled list today.