April 6, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; A large American flag is unfurled during opening day ceremonies before the game between the Minnesota Twins and Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Did the Orioles claim Russ Canzler for a reason?

The Baltimore Orioles added a hitter earlier this week when they claimed first baseman/outfielder Russ Canzler off of waivers from the NY Yankees’ organization. At 26 years old, Canzler has hit .276 in 29 big leauge games from 2011-’12 with Tampa and Cleveland. At the minor league level he’s a career .278 hitter over nine years in various organizations. The Orioles DFA’d Luis Martinez so they could add Canzler to the 40-man roster. Neverminding the fact that the O’s traded for Danny Valencia earlier in the off season, Canzler actually comes across as a pretty solid addition to the organization given his numbers.

However at this point it’s clear that Dan Duquette might have added Canzler for a more specific reason as opposed to just depth. The above-mentioned Valencia’s name appears in the records of the Miami, FL-area Bigenesis clinic that has allegedly been distributing PED’s to several big league players. The big name in the yahoo sports report is Ryan Braun, but Valencia is mentioned (although not in conjunction with any PED’s. I’ve said this before regarding players being implicated in PED use; I believe in the innocent until proven guilty concept. But these kinds of reports normally don’t surface about guys who aren’t guilty. Obviously the one thing in Valencia’s favor is that his name is not mentioned near any PED’s. However in the mean time, MLB is conducting it’s own investigation and Valencia released this statement yesterday:

“As any innocent person would be, I am shocked and troubled that my name is in any way connected to this story. I have never met or spoken to anyone connected with Biogenesis, in fact I had never even heard of this company prior to the New Times’ story. I take tremendous pride in the hard work and dedication I put into being a professional baseball player and have never taken PEDs or failed a drug test of any kind during my career. I look forward to fully cooperating in MLB’s investigation in any way that I can, and will explore taking legal action if this issue is not resolved in a timely fashion.”

Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

That’s a pretty strong statement, and not unlike many that we’ve seen in the past from other players (most recently Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals). My recommendation to any player implicated in something like this would be to simply say nothing, for the record. It’s bad enough to be tagged as a PED user, however trying to then cover it up makes it even worse. Having said that, IF he truly is innocent I do understand him wanting to come out and try to clear his name. HoweverIFany player is truly innocent, that will also be proven in due course. I also recognize that it’s easy for me to say all of this as I sit behind my computer. I’m not a professional athlete, I just report on what they do. So it’s easy for me to say guys shouldn’t say anything in these situations. Them deciding to do just that is a totally different story.

For his own good and the good of the organization, I hope that Valencia is clean. But we have no way of knowing that; only him and his pharmacists know for sure. Nevertheless I suspect that the Orioles picked up Canzler in case Valencia is gone for 50 games. There’s never been any guarantee that Valencia would have started the season in the big leagues in the first place. Speaking for myself, I always saw him as organizational depth that the Orioles might consider using in the event of injury or ineffectiveness at the big league level. I also saw him as decent trade bait in the middle of the season if the O’s were in contention and wanted to make a move to aquire a bat or arm.

Canzler I feel has a better shot of making the team out of spring training given his numbers. Valencia is a career .188 hitter in the big leagues as opposed to Canzler’s aforementioned numbers. If he has a good spring (and that’s the most important part of any fringe player making the team), I could see him breaking camp with the O’s. I think that a lot of things would probably have to happen such as injuries or total ineptitude on the part of some other guys, but you never know. Ideally, Canzler and Valencia are both nothing more than organizational depth. Whether or not that truly ends up being the case isn’t for me to say. As I said previously, MLB is currently investigating the matter. For the record, I’m going to assume that Valencia is telling the truth until proven otherwise. However again, guys’ names are normally not cleared once these rumors start coming out.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles Danny Valencia Russ Canzler

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