George Sherrill will be given the chance to return to his All-Star form as closer, and he will be joined in the bullpen by Chris Ray, who returns from injury and James Johnson, who emerged last season as a dominant set up man. The O's are talking about carrying 13 pitchers. We'll see about that.
Danys Baez - After pitching miserably in '07 and missing all of '08, Baez is owed $5.5 million in '09. That may be the only reason he makes the team. But if he can't get people out in spring training, the O's might and would be wise to let him go.
Jamie Walker - Walker is in a similar boat as Baez, but he has the advantage of being left-handed. The O's will give him a little more slack. They will probably not cut both Baez and Walker, as that would be a waste of $10 million. What's a few million between friends?
George Sherrill - The left hander acquired in the Bedard trade was very good in the first half, leading the league at one point with 31 saves. Just don't look at his second half. He will be the closer again this year, although Ray may be used in certain situations and may unseat him if Sherrill is ineffective.
Chris Ray - I'm excited to have "cray" back in business. He is ideally the future closer and I hope to see him regain his '05 and '06 lights out ability.
James Johnson - The former starter was a pleasant surprise last year and is guaranteed a spot in the bullpen. Hopefully he will be able to adjust this year, as batters caught on to his fastball last year. He needs to learn to vary his pitches better.
Dennis Sarfate - Sarfate proved he had the makings of a great reliever, consistently throwing in the upper 90's. He is almost certain to have a spot on the team, but needs to cut down on his walks. He is very comparable to Ray.
Mark Hendrickson - Assuming that he does not win a starting spot, the lefty should be the team's long reliever.
Wilfredo Perez - I had never heard of this guy until a few weeks ago, but insiders say he has a shot of becoming the next Johnson.
Matt Albers - He was very effective in relief last year and will pitch at some point this year. Whether it's as a starter or reliever will be the question.
Radhames Liz - The O's may convert him to a reliever, but I wouldn't expect them to do that this early. They'll give him a chance to win a spot in the rotation, or else have him start in Triple-A. Only if he continues to struggle will they consider him for the bullpen.
Brian Bass - Bass is out of options, but he is in all honesty, not a major league caliber player. If he makes the team, I will be mad.
Others - Kam Mickolio, Jim Miller, Jim Hoey, John Parrish - I liked what I saw last year in Mickolio and Miller last year, but there just aren't enough spots at this point. But when injuries occur or other pitchers are ineffective, they should be the first ones called up, and should still play important roles this year. Hoey missed last season and will need some time in the minors to get back into the groove. Parrish has an outside chance of beating out Walker or Hendrickson as a left-handed option, but I wouldn't bet on it.
My Preffered Bullpen:
LR Hendrickson (long relief)
MR Sarfate (middle relief)
SU Johnson (set up)
CL Sherrill (closer)
The O's Probable Bullpen: