What’s going on with Orioles bullpen? (Hammonds note)

No matter how many announcements are made concerning minor league signings or new scouts, the Orioles’ primary focus remains on finding a veteran starting pitcher. Nothing has changed in that regard.

However, the bullpen has not gone ignored. It’s not set.

The Orioles remain in the running for closer Fernando Rodney. They’ve stayed in contact with his representative as the market for his services diminished.

While they seem comfortable with naming Tommy Hunter as their ninth-inning specialist, they aren’t entirely sold on the idea. Otherwise, they would have moved on from Rodney.

Hunter Delivers Orange tall.jpgHunter wants the job. He’d rather start, but closing brings more appeal than working in a set-up role. He’s already made that point clear to manager Buck Showalter.

The Orioles have money to spend. The question is whether they could make room on the payroll for Rodney and a frontline starter.

Rodney originally sought a three-year deal in the $30 million range. Not happening. Now, he’s reportedly seeking $15 million over two years, the identical contract that Grant Balfour agreed to before failing his physical.

The Mariners, Mets and Yankees are other teams linked to Rodney. The market hasn’t completely dried up.

Rodney has saved 85 games over the past two seasons. He was out of this world in 2012, allowing five earned runs in 74 2/3 innings for a 0.60 ERA. He served up only two home runs and had a 0.777 WHIP.

He was more ... human ... in 2013, posting a 3.38 ERA in 66 2/3 innings. Oh, and his hat is still crooked.

Which Rodney is a team paying for here? He was 15-30 with a 4.28 ERA in seven seasons in Detroit and 7-8 with a 4.32 ERA in two seasons with the Angels.

If the Orioles sign Rodney, the set-up crew of Hunter, Darren O’Day and Ryan Webb looks formidable. Brian Matusz figures to remain a left-handed specialist if they sign another starter, and with lefty Troy Patton serving a 25-game suspension. That’s a strong bullpen on paper.

However, there’s no way that I’d sacrifice signing A.J. Burnett or Bronson Arroyo for the rotation in order to bring in Rodney. There would have to be room on the payroll. Otherwise, go with Hunter as closer. That money is better spent elsewhere.

Besides, I honestly believe that Hunter would succeed in that role. Pump that upper-90s fastball in full attack mode. And work with Bryan Harvey on the splitter in spring training.

A reminder that tonight is Babe’s Birthday Bash at Sports Legends Museum, where center fielder Adam Jones will receive the 2014 Babe Ruth Museum Community Service Award.

The event, which runs from 5:30-9 p.m., also will celebrate the 119th anniversary of Ruth’s birth in Baltimore on Feb. 6, 1895 and commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ruth’s professional baseball debut in February 1914.

The evening will include unlimited ballpark-inspired food and beverages, a silent auction, appearances by local professional and amateur athletes, free parking at Camden Yards and admission to Sports Legends MuseumÂ’s galleries.

The expanded guest list includes former Orioles reliever Tippy Martinez and Towson University football coach Rob Ambrose.

I provided more details here last month.

I won’t be able to attend because ...

Shameless plug alert: I’m back on the air tonight with Jim Hunter for “Hot Stove Baseball” from 7-8 p.m. on WBAL Radio.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette is one of our confirmed guests. Maybe he’ll drop some news on us.

I’m also scheduled to do a phoner on the SiriusXM Fantasy Baseball show around 3 p.m.

Note: The Major League Baseball Players Association announced that former Orioles outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds has joined the MLBPA in the newly created position of Special Assistant, Player Program Development.

Hammonds, 42, played 13 major league seasons with the Orioles, Brewers, Reds, Rockies, Giants and Nationals.

In his new role, Hammonds will work in support of current union programs, such as the Players Trust, as well as initiatives administered by the MLBPA’s player services department.

Hammonds, a native of Scotch Plains, N.J., is a graduate of Stanford University, where he played for the Cardinal prior to being the fourth overall pick in the 1992 First-Year Player Draft. He was inducted into the Stanford University Athletics Hall of Fame in October.

Also, the Orioles made the Evan Meek signing official. The right-hander receives an invitation to spring training.

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