The agent for Grant Balfour on Friday disputed a claim by the Baltimore Orioles that the free-agent pitcher had flunked his physical with the team, thereby voiding a two-year, $15 million agreement to which the sides agreed earlier in the week.
Citing two doctors who have histories with the 35-year-old Balfour, agent Seth Levinson said diagnostic tests showed Balfour's arm to be "completely healthy," possibly setting up a fight between the Orioles and the players' union.
[Also: 2013 MLB Ultimate Free-Agent Tracker ]
"Now factor into the equation that Grant was a 2013 All-Star, pitched 65 games and another three scoreless innings in the postseason with a 94-95 [mph] fastball," Levinson said in a statement through his agency, ACES. "The only reasonable conclusion is that Grant is healthy and the Orioles at the last moment changed their minds."
Balfour had shoulder surgery eight years ago to repair a torn rotator cuff.
He told the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday, "I'm the All-Star pitcher I was last season. My shoulder is fine, everything is fine. I'm ready to come out there in the ninth inning, do what I do."
For a few hours this week, the Orioles and Balfour seemed a smart, comfortable union. The Orioles had traded their closer, Jim Johnson, to the Oakland A's, Balfour's previous team, so they needed a closer themselves.
On Tuesday, the Orioles and Balfour, who saved 62 games over the past two seasons, came to agreement on the two-year contract. All that stood between the offer and consummation was for Balfour to pass a physical.
By Friday afternoon, the Orioles were hastily calling the agents for other closers – Fernando Rodney, for one – because, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette said, the team was dissatisfied with the results of the physical.
"We're going to turn our attention elsewhere," Duquette told reporters in Baltimore.
Given the possible financial ramifications of the decision, Balfour could file a grievance with the union.