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Baltimore Orioles Closer

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Yesterday, the Orioles' placed second-year closer Chris Ray on the Disabled List, to quote MLB.com, "with a right elbow ulnar collateral injury."  For those unfamiliar with the anatomical focus of Tommy John Surgery (Yes!  it deserves to be capitalized!), it involes a two-word ligament in the elbow that rhymes with smulnar bollateral.

Until that announcement comes, there are going to be save opportunities to be had in the Orioles' bullpen.  The past two have gone to Jamie Walker, a lefty specialist the O's signed this past off-season to a three-year/$12MM contract.  However, both were a function of multiple left-handed batters due up in the 9th inning.

The Orioles also gave right-handed submariner Chad Bradford a three-year deal.  This one was for $10.5MM, but manager Dave Trembley also said, "I'll have to pick my spots with them [Walker & Bradford]."

That leaves Danys Baez as the lone off-season free agent bullpen signee remaining.  (Scott Williamson was a 4th but let go.)  Baez' deal was for three years also, but at a staggering $19MM!  This contract points to the O's intention of him being a closer if needed.  

Unfortunately, he came down with  forearm problem after a good April.  In May and June, he allowed 17 earned runs in 16 2/3s innings of work.  Since being activated from the DL on July 12th, he has been much, much better with 4 1/3 innings pitched and just a lone hit, ER, and BB to go with 4 Ks.

The question becomes how much that $19MM contract influences who will close, and given Trembley's statement about picking spots for Walker and Bradford, I'll bet Baez gets the save opportunities for the rest of the year.

Update [2007-7-26 15:57:3 by Eric Hz]: Jamie Walker pitched the 7th inning in today's game.