Hammel remains linked to Orioles

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Orioles’ search for a veteran starter with an affordable contract could lead them back to Jason Hammel.

I’ve heard that the Orioles maintain interest in Hammel, provided that he will accept a contract heavy in incentives. That’s the latest buzz from the lobby of the Swan and Dolphin Resort.

The Indians also have expressed interest in Hammel, according to FOX Sports. However, ESPN reports that the right-hander’s price has gone up and the Indians are moving in another direction.

The Orioles could follow.

Hammel was bothered by a right flexor mass strain that caused discomfort in his elbow. An MRI in early August revealed inflammation near the ulnar nerve, but no structural damage to the elbow.

The Orioles used Hammel in relief for his final two appearances in September, and he allowed one run and five hits in 4 1/3 innings, with no walks and five strikeouts. Observers noted his improved command and overall stuff.

Hammel was outstanding in the first half of the 2012 season, his first with the Orioles after being acquired from the Rockies for pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. He posted a 1.97 ERA in five April starts and went 8-5 with a 3.47 ERA in 17 starts before the break, with 92 hits, 38 walks and 101 strikeouts in 106 1/3 innings. But he underwent knee surgery and was limited to three starts in the second half.

Former Orioles Scott Feldman and Nate McLouth have signed with the Astros and Nationals, respectively, and executive vice president Dan Duquette seems prepared to replace Brian Roberts at second base, though the door supposedly remains open for a return.

The same goes for Hammel at the moment.

It’s becoming more apparent that the Orioles are pushing to acquire a veteran starter on a one-year deal. WFAN in New York reports that Johan Santana is drawing interest from several teams, including the Orioles.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner went 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA in 21 starts with the Mets in 2012. He missed the 2011 and 2013 seasons with a torn shoulder capsule.

The Mets declined Santana’s $25 million option for next season and bought out the final year at $5.5 million.

Also, FOX Sports is reporting that the Orioles met today with the agents for outfielder Nelson Cruz, and talks are expected to continue.

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