Thoughts and observations on Balfour, Hardy, Webb and more

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The clock is ticking for the Orioles. We've reached the final day of the winter meetings and the team is still empty-handed here.

The Orioles' pursuit of Grant Balfour continues. It could happen today, tomorrow, this weekend, next week, later this month or not at all.


Until Balfour either signs with the Orioles or goes in another direction, the club won't likely extend offers to any other closing candidates. It appears the Australian right-hander is their top target, and only if he rejects them will the Orioles make offers to secondary options John Axford or Chris Perez.

* The Orioles will likely make a selection in this morning's Rule 5 draft in an effort to acquire a player for the third consecutive year through the process. The Orioles took Ryan Flaherty in 2012 and T.J. McFarland last year. This year, they have the 16th pick.


Duquette has mentioned the Rule 5 draft often. The club has done a lot of work on it, and if the Orioles are able to get another player through the draft, that would be not only a rarity but also a major accomplishment.

"The past couple of years, we did a good job with the scouting and a good job with the player development at the big league level to make up the gap in experience the players we got lacked," Duquette said.

"And with the way [manager] Buck [Showalter] managed Flaherty and T.J. McFarland and their commitment to being ballplayers, we were able to keep those guys," he added. "That's more in the minority than it is in the norm. We're happy that we've done a lot of work on the draft, and we'll see if there's somebody in there this year."

* Regardless of what happens with the Orioles today, fans have to be happy about news that there's mutual interest in shortstop J.J. Hardy hanging around past 2014.

Duquette said as much on Wednesday, and Hardy confirmed he's interested. He said Duquette broached the subject with him during the Gold Glove awards banquet and said they'll talk about it again closer to spring training.

* Here's a scene that will let you know a bit about the winter meetings:

Imagine the Orioles press corps crowded in a hallway cubby hole next to an ice machine, talking into a cell phone to interview the team's newest pitcher.

That's what we did Wednesday evening when Ryan Webb was made available to the media for the first time.


During the call, Webb said one of the reasons he was drawn to the Orioles was because of traded closer Jim Johnson. Both of them rely on their sinker, so seeing how Johnson had success in Baltimore gave Webb confidence he could do the same.

Webb by no means is coming to Baltimore to assume the closer job, at least not now, so I asked him how he saw his role on the team shaping up.

"I haven't really thought of it," Webb said. "I'm going to go into spring training and I'm going to work as hard as I can. That kind of decision is up to Buck. I'm just going to go in with an open mind and whatever role they want me to play, I'm going to compete my best and I'm going to be happy with whatever role that is because I want to play on a winning team.

"I don't want to go in and be the best guy on the worst bullpen," he added. "I want to be a guy in one of the best bullpens in the league. I learned that a long time ago. It's a lot more fun to win and have a good bullpen and a good group of guys behind you than stick out for being one good guy in a bullpen that falters. So, I'm just looking forward to having guys around me who are competing just as hard."

He sounded excited, which is good. He's not necessarily a high-profile reliever, but it's always promising when a free agent want to come to town.

* A couple of other nuggets:


-- Converted knuckleballer Tomo Ohka signed with the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night. The Orioles were one of several teams that scouted him and it seemed like they would have been a good fit given the fact that Duquette has a penchant for knuckleballers – he converted Zach Clark and Eddie Gamboa this past season and had Tim Wakefield in Boston – and the fact that Ohka previously pitched for the Red Sox.

-- Duquette had an ear-to-ear grin when he was told by local media that agent Scott Boras said Duquette has "great hair" during his scrum with reporters. "Great hair? And he's a California guy too, huh?" Duquette said with a smile.

Not sure those compliments are going to help Boras when he goes to the negotiating table with Duquette over extensions for Chris Davis and Matt Wieters.

-- From the "boys will be boys" file, a lot of jaws dropped in the hotel lobby on Wednesday night when news circulated that two agents got into a fight in the parking lot, apparently for one taking the other's client.

-- Some of the Orioles travel party will leave following the Rule 5 draft on Thursday, but some will stay for a banquet during which player development director Brian Graham will be awarded the Chief Bender Award, which is given for distinguished service in player development.