Accardo officially on board; club still pursuing Gregg

With one righty reliever signed, O's in mix for the other, agent says

December 17, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

The Orioles officially have one former Toronto Blue Jays closer in the fold and remain in the running for the services of another.

On Friday, the club finalized its one-year, $1.08 million deal with right-hander Jeremy Accardo, and it is still in the mix for righty Kevin Gregg.

Once becoming a free agent after being non-tendered by the Blue Jays this offseason, Accardo spoke to several players, including Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, to gauge their feelings on the organization and playing in Baltimore. He said he was convinced after talking to president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and manager Buck Showalter late last week.

"I talked to probably five or six teams, maybe even seven, that were pretty legitimate talks," Accardo said in a phone interview. "When I talked to Andy and Buck on the phone, I was pretty sold there. I just wanted to weigh the options. This is where we want to be for the next few years, and hopefully even longer than that."

Accardo, who turns 29 on Saturday, said he looks forward to having opportunities to get key outs late in games for the Orioles, who he believes have a "great back end of the bullpen." Accardo saved 30 games for the Blue Jays in 2007 but lost the closer's role in an injury-marred 2008 and spent most of the past two seasons closing games for the Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate.

"The season is pretty long. There is going to be some people with nagging arms, and the opportunity is going to be there. That's all I can really ask for," Accardo said of the Orioles. "They didn't really [promise] me anything. I don't want anything handed to me. That would take away the point of going in there, working hard and competing. I've been scrapping and trying to get by my whole career, and I've done it to this point."

Accardo's most impressive season was in 2007, when he set career bests with 30 saves, four wins and a 2.14 ERA. Last year, he pitched in just five games with the Blue Jays, allowing six runs in 62/3 innings (8.10 ERA). He was 3-2 with 24 saves in 42 games with Triple-A Las Vegas.

"The last two years, I've been healthy. I haven't had a problem," he said. "But over the last two years, going up and down and through all that stuff with Toronto, I think a change of scenery is great. Through that, I learned how to pitch more. I think I'm much smarter than I was in '07. Now, I just have to go execute. I think I'm ready to do that."

Accardo becomes one of five Orioles relievers who have posted at least 10 saves in a big league season, joining Koji Uehara, Michael Gonzalez, Jim Johnson and Alfredo Simon. The team could add another in the near future.

Danny Horwits, the agent for free-agent reliever Kevin Gregg, said Friday that his client has narrowed his focus in recent days and the Orioles remain very much in the mix.

"It's fair to say that we're still in discussions with a few teams and Baltimore is one of them," Horwits said. "Over the last couple of days, a couple of new teams have gotten involved and Kevin has informed a couple of other teams that he has narrowed his focus. … It has changed over the last week to 10 days, but there are a few teams still involved."

Horwits said the reliever, who saved 37 games for Toronto in 2010, hopes to decide soon. It's believed the Orioles have offered a two-year deal between $8 million and $10 million for Gregg, who has closed for the Blue Jays, Chicago Cubs and Florida Marlins.

"Kevin would like to be done before the holidays. It might take two days; it might take seven days. But quicker is certainly on the agenda," Horwits said. "There's no real time frame. In the Orioles' case, you have to talk to Andy as far as their desire to get a resolution. But I think both sides are on the same page."

Horwits declined to characterize which team is the front-runner for Gregg's services but said the chance to close is a key consideration.

"He has opportunities to both be a setup man and a closer," Horwits said. "The last four years, he's averaged 30-plus saves. As he says, closing is in his blood and that's what he likes to do. I would say having that opportunity is very important."

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