We know now that the previously agreed-upon two-year, $15 million deal between the Orioles and Grant Balfour has fallen apart due to Baltimore's concerns with Balfour's physical. Reports indicate the problem came when the Orioles examined an MRI of his right (throwing) shoulder.
Balfour had surgery to repair his labrum and rotator cuff back in 2005, but he's been able to stay healthy of late. He's appeared in at least 50 games in each season since 2008 and hasn't been on the disabled list since 2011.
And Balfour told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that nothing has changed.
"My shoulder is fine, everything is fine," he said to Slusser (via Twitter). "I'm ready to come out there in the ninth inning, do what I do."
Slusser also notes that Balfour told her he is "100 percent fine" and his MRIs show the exact same thing they did three years ago when he signed with the Athletics.
In those three years with the A's, Balfour had a 2.53 ERA (154 ERA+), 1.04 WHIP and 203 strikeouts in 199 1/3 innings. In the past two seasons as closer, he's saved 62 games in 67 chances.
While he did insist he's healthy, Balfour didn't say anything negative about the Orioles:
Balfour has some medical experts getting his back, too. Via a Ken Rosenthal column on foxsports.com comes the following:
“The MRI that I did on him today looked exactly the same as the MRI I did three years ago,” said [Rays team physician Koco] Eaton, who cared for Balfour with the Rays from 2007 to '10 and performed his physical when the pitcher signed a two-year, $8.1 million free-agent contract with the Athletics in Jan. 2011.
“It did not look normal compared to a person who does not play baseball for a living. But for someone who plays baseball for a living, it looked normal. There are abnormalities on the MRI as there are on every single baseball player's. But three years ago, there was no issue, and he had pretty good performance when he was with Oakland.”
Rosenthal cites another Doctor (Reds team Doctor Timothy Kremcheck), who agrees with Dr. Eaton. So it sounds like it's possible the Orioles may have overreacted to the medicals? Here is Orioles general manager Dan Duquette on the situation:
“I don't have anything to add other than that our doctors aren't satisfied with the results of the physical. These medical opinions vary from doctor to doctor. The processes vary from club to club.”
Regardless, Balfour is back on the free agent market for any club seeking an All-Star closer.