Conducting the usual search for veteran relievers during the offseason, the Orioles are on the verge of signing left-hander Fernando Abad to a minor league contract per multiple sources.
Final details are being worked out, but the sides are in agreement.
Abad will receive an invitation to spring training, which for the Orioles is supposed to begin with pitchers and catchers reporting to the Ed Smith Stadium complex on Feb. 16.
The Orioles also held interest in Abad last winter and made an offer during the meetings in San Diego, but the Nationals signed him to a minor league contract. He didn’t pitch in the majors in 2020.
Abad, who celebrates his 35th birthday on Thursday, is 8-29 with a 3.67 ERA and 1.285 WHIP in 384 games spread over nine seasons. He served an 80-game suspension in 2018 after testing positive for Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance, and was released by the Mets upon the announcement. He signed with the independent Long Island Ducks before making it back to the majors in 2019 and appearing in 21 games with the Giants.
The Nationals released Abad on July 17, 2020, two weeks after he tested positive for COVID-19. He signed a minor league deal with the Yankees and became a free agent in November.
The Orioles would be Abad’s seventh team if he makes the active roster. He made 69 appearances with the Athletics in 2014 and registered a 1.57 ERA and 0.855 WHIP in 57 1/3 innings. The Twins used him in 39 games in 2016 before trading him to the Red Sox on Aug. 1 and he posted a 2.65 ERA and 1.206 WHIP in 34 innings.
Left-handers have slashed .234/.283/.378 against Abad, who provides another southpaw option in camp.
The pitching staff could include at least one Rule 5 selection, with right-handers Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells now on the 40-man roster after their selections from the Reds and Twins, respectively. Major League Baseball hasn’t determined the size of active rosters in 2021, which were expanded this summer due to the pandemic.
Abad is a low-risk acquisition, a common type over the winter months. And he should feel more comfortable in a clubhouse that no longer includes Manny Machado.
Abad and Machado were ejected from a June 2014 game at Camden Yards after the third baseman became frustrated by a pair of inside pitches and released his bat on a swing that appeared to be aimed at the mound. Machado later claimed that the bat, which spiraled toward Athletics third baseman Alberto Callaspo, slipped from his hands.
Plate umpire Larry Vanover tossed both players as dugouts and bullpens emptied, and he later told a pool reporter: “It was obvious the pitcher threw at him the second time. The first time you have some doubt, but the second time there was no doubt he threw at him. And then he threw the bat. That wasn’t accidental.”
Machado has moved on to the Dodgers and Padres. Abad will be in Sarasota as one of the oldest players in camp and perhaps a replacement for Richard Bleier, who was traded to the Marlins over the summer.