3. What happens with the bullpen?

The article in October said this would be a bigger issue if Duquette hadn't gone on record in September saying that incumbent Jim Johnson, pictured, would be his closer in 2014. Well, consider it a major issue again. The Orioles dealt Johnson to the Oakland Athletics in December because the reigning, two-time AL saves leader was set to make $10 million in arbitration, and the club didn't want to spend that much money on a closer. They attempted to fill his spot with Grant Balfour, Oakland's closer last season, but backed out of a two-year, $15 million deal following the 36-year-old right-hander's physical. Orioles doctors didn't like what they saw regarding Balfour's right shoulder, and the club wanted to scale back to just one year. Balfour ended up signing a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Orioles made a soft push to sign closer Fernando Rodney, who ended up with the Seattle Mariners. So, the Orioles likely will go with an internal candidate as next year's closer, with Tommy Hunter as the favorite to fill the role. The club did bolster the back-end of the bullpen by signing set-up man Ryan Webb to a two-year deal. And they added a bunch of potential relievers, including veteran right-hander Alfredo Aceves. However, they'll also lose left-hander Troy Patton to a 25-game suspension (for testing positive for amphetamines) to start the season. So what primarily has been a strength the past two years could be again, but there is some uncertainty surrounding the bullpen heading into spring training.
Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun
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