Orioles maintain interest in Francisco Rodriguez

The Orioles could go in two directions regarding their bullpen. Sign a closer or move Tommy Hunter into the role and acquire another set-up man.

Either way, they seem likely to add another reliever before spring training.

Though they made an immediate push for free agent closer Fernando Rodney after their deal with Grant Balfour fell apart, he may be too pricy for a team that wasn’t willing to pay Jim Johnson $10-$11 million in 2014. There doesn’t appear to be a financial match.

According to industry sources, the Orioles continue to express interest in free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez and have held discussions with his representatives. It’s definitely intensified over the past few weeks.

Rodriguez, who turns 32 next week, went 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 23 appearances with the Orioles after they acquired him from the Brewers on July 23 for minor league infielder Nicky Delmonico. He allowed 25 hits, walked five, struck out 28 and surrendered five home runs in 22 innings.

With the Brewers, Rodriguez was 1-1 with a 1.09 ERA in 25 appearances. He allowed 17 hits, walked nine and struck out 26 in 24 2/3 innings.

Combine his work with both teams, and he averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 2013.

Rodriguez also went 10-for-10 in save situations with the Brewers, but the Orioles never let him close and basically had him slotted behind Hunter and Darren O’Day among set-up men.

The Orioles could bring back Rodriguez as closer insurance in case Hunter falters in that role. I’ve heard that he’s willing to sign with a team that offers set-up duties. He isn’t holding out for a guaranteed closer job.

The Brewers signed Rodriguez to a minor league contract on April 17 and promoted him the following month. According to a source, the Brewers are one of the teams expressing interest in him.

Rodriguez’s 304 career saves over 12 major league seasons are tied with former Royals closer Jeff Montgomery for 21st on the all-time list. Rich Gossage is 20th with 310.

The Orioles have focused most of their attention on the bullpen this winter, signing Ryan Webb to a two-year, $4.5 million contract after signing Edgmer Escalona and Kelvin De La Cruz and trading for Brad Brach. They also went the waiver route to get Liam Hendriks, who will compete for a spot as a long reliever/swingman, and placed left-hander Chris Jones on their 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft.

Note: MASN will re-air a retrospective of the 1966 World Series, featuring Tom Davis and former Orioles center fielder Paul Blair, tonight from 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. They will discuss various key points in the series, including Blair’s home run in Game 3, and his catch in Game 4.

After the retrospective, MASN will air Game 5 of the 1970 World Series.

Blair passed away last week at age 69.

Blair’s family will greet his friends and fans today from 2 p.m. - 8 p.m. at Ruck’s Funeral Home at 1050 York Road in Towson. Memorial contributions may be sent in Blair’s name to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN, 38105.

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