LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Orioles are heavy favorites to select another player in the Rule 5 draft, which begins at 9 a.m. at the Swan and Dolphin Resort.
I won’t leave you in suspense any longer.
I’m in the Dolphin building.
This explains why Larry Csonka left a mint on my pillow.
I’m anticipating that the Orioles will take another reliever, as they did last winter with T.J. McFarland. But they chose infielder Ryan Flaherty the previous year.
“The Rule 5’s a bit of a crap shoot, but once in a while you can come up with a good player who can help your team. More often than not, you’ll come up with a player that you think is a good player that’s going to help your team,” said executive vice president Dan Duquette.
“The past couple of years, we did a good job with the scouting and we did a good job with the player development at the big league level to make up the gap in experience that the players we’ve got lacked. With the way that Buck (Showalter) managed Flaherty and T.J. McFarland and their commitment to being ballplayers, we were able to keep those guys. That’s more in the minority than it is the norm. But we’re happy and we’ve done a lot of work on the draft and we’ll see if there’s somebody in there this year.
“We draft a little bit lower this year, but we’ll see.”
The Orioles have the 16th pick. Not to be confused with their 17th pick in the First-Year Player Draft.
Try to keep up.
The Orioles didn’t make a trade or sign a free agent in the middle of the night. I fly out of here at 5:50 p.m., so they better do something before I’m ripping apart my bag of peanuts and gourmet mini-pretzels.
Their bullpen is taking shape after Ryan Webb signed his two-year, $4.5 million contract. They still need a closer, with Grant Balfour sitting on their two-year offer, and someone must be anointed the long man.
Why did Webb choose the Orioles after the Marlins non-tendered him? Let him explain.
“They were one of the first ones to reach out to me and my agent,” he said during a conference call with five writers huddled next to an ice machine down the hall from Duquette’s suite.
We’re not fancy and we like our privacy.
“That’s always a good sign,” Webb added. “And it was literally hours after I was non-tendered by the Marlins. It’s a good feeling when somebody’s on you that quick. They’ve paid attention to me and probably wanted me for a while.
“Obviously, the defense there is amazing and that was a big part of my decision in the end. You always want to play behind a very good defense like the Oriole have. Their lineup is incredible. I think they’re going to compete in that division and I want to help make them a playoff team.
“Looking at Jim Johnson obviously leaving and the type of pitcher he was, it’s always good to see sinkerball guys like that that are kind of looked upon favorably by the front office and the manager. He was obviously an excellent closer there for the last few years, and there’s lots of similarities with the types of pitchers we are. I think going into an atmosphere where the manager looks at sinkerballers as a positive, good thing, made me more comfortable with my decision.”
Webb doesn’t have a major league save and most likely will be used in the sixth to eighth innings. He doesn’t know and he’s not fretting over it.
“I haven’t really thought of it,” he 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 paly, 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. 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.”
Webb never has pitched at Camden Yards or in the American League East.
“I hear it’s a beautiful ballpark,” he said. “I’ve been to a few of the stadiums in that league. I know it’s a tough division, but that kind of stuff really excites me. I want to pitch against the best, I want to pitch in games that matter, I want to pitch when every pitch counts. That kind of stuff really gets me going. So, I’m excited to come to a team where every inning is going to matter.
“I think as long as I keep the ball down in the zone and do what I’ve done, I don’t have to worry about the ballpark so much.”
Teams showed immediate interest in Webb after the Marlins decided to non-tender him despite a 2.91 ERA in 66 appearances.
“I was surprised at the non-tender. It was definitely not expected,” he said. “Before I had time to even process what happened, I got calls from 14 or 15 teams, according to my agent, and Baltimore was one of the first and they were one of the most successful, so I was real comfortable with making that decision kind of early. The timing is right, I think, and I was very happy with my decision and I’m really excited to be with the Orioles.”