SARASOTA, Fla. -- After enjoying the best season of his career for the Marlins in 2013, Ryan Webb suddenly found himself non-tendered and on the open market.
The Orioles were quick to express their interest in the 28-year-old right-hander, and Webb took notice. So just over a week after being granted free agency by Miami, Webb signed a two-year, $4.5 million deal with Baltimore.
"There were 15, 16 teams on the phone, but the Orioles were first and the most aggressive," said Webb. "That played a big part in it as well, the fact that they were one of the first teams on the phone and wanted me from the beginning. They said they had been watching me for a while and stuff like that. That made it comfortable for me."
Webb finished last season with a 2.91 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 80 1/3 innings over 66 appearances, posting a 56.3 percent ground-ball rate out of the Marlins' bullpen. He's been fairly consistent throughout his career, going 13-15 with a 3.29 ERA in 276 innings over parts of five seasons with the Padres and Marlins.
The Marlins told him they chose to non-tender him due to "allocation of resources, payroll stuff," but Webb didn't take it personally. Instead, he was excited to join a team with postseason aspirations like the Orioles.
"It was mainly just looking at the competitive team they've put together the last couple years, the lineup they have, the great things I've heard about Buck [Showalter] managing bullpens. Looking at the guys here, I really think we've got something special going on," Webb said. "They're going to compete in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, and that was really intriguing for me, because I'm up for a challenge.
"It made sense for me to take the opportunity to come here and try to be a part of something special that the Orioles are doing."
Some pitchers might shy away from the challenge of pitching in the American League East, a division full of deep lineups and a couple hitters' ballparks. Not Webb, though.
"I'm a competitive person. To be the best, you've got to beat the best. They don't really scare me," Webb said. "It's going to be a challenge. It's not going to be easy. You're going to probably hit some road bumps like everybody does, but I'm mentally and physically ready and at the point in my career where I'm up for the challenge. So I'm glad to be in this clubhouse with these guys, ready to take that on."
Webb would seem to be in line to lock down some sort of late-inning setup role for the Orioles this year but said he's grown comfortable pitching in basically any role out of the bullpen.
"All I can do is make sure I do my job, keep the ball on the ground, try to get quick outs. Buck's going to make the decisions on who to utilize out of the bullpen," Webb said. "We've got a lot of good pieces, so it's going to be interesting to see how the dominoes fall this year."
Markakis plans to welcome Cruz with open arms
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis, who has been a vocal advocate for stricter penalties for performance-enhancing drug users, said Saturday the organization's addition of Nelson Cruz -- who was suspended last season for his role in the Biogenesis scandal -- doesn't change his opinion.
But Markakis, the team's longest-tenured player and a quiet leader in the clubhouse, will put aside his personal feelings on the matter and plans on welcoming Cruz to the Orioles.
"He's my teammate now and I got to be a teammate, and no matter if you disagree or agree with your teammates, they are still your teammates," said Markakis, who has called PED users out for "stealing" money. "He's going to be welcome here and we are going to play as one. That's for sure."
Markakis didn't think there would be any ill-will among the other players when Cruz, who is slated to arrive Saturday night, joins the clubhouse. Chris Davis, who has also been vocal about PED users and maintains that the home run record is 61, played with Cruz in Texas.
"We know how things go on in this clubhouse, we know how we do things and we do things certain ways," Markakis said. "Guys coming in here are going to have to adjust to that. It's not just about making adjustments in the batter's box and on the pitcher's mound, it's making adjustments to a new clubhouse, a new team, and so forth. There's adjustments, not just on the field but off the field, too.
"I'm aware of what's going on and what's been going on in baseball, but my opinion doesn't change toward anything. He's part of this team now and he's going to be in this clubhouse and we're going to welcome him just like anybody else. He's going to be part of this team."
Speaking hypothetically until the organization officially announces the deal, manager Buck Showalter said the front office and coaching staff have done their homework on researching guys before they bring them in.
"Obviously there aren't isolated cases, so it is something I've thought about," Showalter said. "I think every case, you can't throw a blanket over all of them, but we have a tendency to. I'll have a good answer for you if that happens. … It is something that every manager and coach and potential teammate thinks about."
'Two Minutes with ...' focuses on Stinson
SARASOTA, Fla. -- The "Two Minutes with ..." spring series continues with Orioles pitcher Josh Stinson, who was claimed off waivers from the A's on April 4.
The 25-year-old shuttled back and forth from Triple-A Norfolk a few times last season and posted a 3.18 ERA in 11 games (one start) for the Orioles. Out of Minor League options, Stinson is competing for a bullpen job this spring ...
Favorite food: A good steak. I'm a New York strip guy. I like a filet every now and then, but usually I'm a strip guy. Bone-in.
Favorite movie: Step Brothers.
Hidden talent: I can blow bubbles on my tongue. I don't know if that's a special talent. [Stinson later came up with archery].
If I wasn't a baseball player I'd be: A firefighter or an emergency room nurse. I was going to Northwestern State for a nursing degree. The way I've always explained it is kind of like baseball, either one of them really. With a fire alarm, you get different calls. You never know what situation you are going to be in, just like baseball. As far as [being an] ER nurse, same thing. Blood and stuff never bothered me.
Favorite offseason place: My deer stand in Gibsland, La. Me and my dad go out a couple times a year, just go out and get away from everything.
Prized possession: My wife. If it was an object, it would probably be my truck [a 2012 Ford F-150]. It's not anything special, but it's the first car I actually bought on my own. I get real nervous when my wife drives it.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.