Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Getting Messy in the Bullpen

The Orioles' rotation seems pretty set, and the lineup is really only one big bat away from being solid, but the relief situation is looking a little sketchy...

The O's brought in a lefty, Mike Gonzalez, to close games out. He's got great stuff and numbers, but he has an injury history and has never pitched in the AL. That means you need someone ready to step in if he falters. Jim Johnson is a great setup option, but didn't look good at all as a closer last year after the George Sherrill trade. I like Koji Uehara in the bullpen, and maybe he would be able to fill in. He was dominant in the first 3 innings of his starts last year, which means that hitters were confused the first time they faced him but caught on later in the game.

If Kam Mickolio doesn't get a spot, I will be upset. This is a guy who produced every time he was given a chance last year but kept being demoted to make room for someone else. He may be the closer of the future and has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. That should make 4 guys in the 'pen with guaranteed spots, with 3 jobs remaining. This is where it gets ugly.

Cla Meredith was average last year, which basically means he should be good enough to make the Orioles. Assuming that David Hernandez and Jason Berken don't get spots in the rotation, the will also compete for roles in the bullpen. I see a lot of potential for Hernandez, who has traditionally struck out a lot of batters, but I think Berken needs more time in AAA. Then we get to the Chris Ray types, namely Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate, players who have succeeded in the past, but seemingly can't recover from injuries. Sarfate has great stuff and both have shown the ability to be effective relievers, but the O's may not have room for both of them.

The next group consists of the unproven young pitchers who deserve a look, but may not really have a chance. Bob McCrory is likely done after showing little in his two brief stints in the majors (16.46 ERA, .415 AVG against in 15 career games) and picking up injury problems. Alberto Castillo is a left-hander who's done well in parts of 2 seasons with the O's (3.32 ERA in 42 games), but is 35 and seems to be benefiting from good luck as batters have done relatively well against him. Wilfredo Perez was a candidate to get a callup last year after dominating AA as a closer, but there's probably not room for him now and he'll probably start in AAA. Jim Miller seems to be a forgotten mystery and I really don't know much about newcomers Armando Gabino and Luis Lebron, although they will be given opportunities to earn a spot and I have heard that Lebron may be the cinderella to come away with the team after holding a sub 2 ERA and striking out 1.5 batters an inning last year in the minors.

Basically, there is good potential for this group, but I think there is a lot of reason for concern. The back end (Gonzalez, Johnson, Uehara, and Mickolio) should hold its own, but if the middle relievers aren't able to overcome injuries and inexperience, it could be an ugly year. Think of a revolving door reliefs core that combines for an ERA between 6 and 7, maybe higher. There's nothing worse than knowing that when your starting pitcher comes out of the game, so does your chance of winning. Maybe we should trade back for Sherrill or even Danys Baez.


Mark said...

C'mon Tim, it's January .... the bullpen looks great. Deepest and most promising since Don Stanhouse ( in the pen. Link attached for you under 40 folks. The only missing link in this years team is a solid #4 hitter (Nolan is a year or two away). I am thinking that the best course of action now is to move Luke to clean up and move Wieters up in the line up. I am also pushing for Dave to give Michael Aubrey a chance at first. Look at his picture on the O's site and you will see that his likeness is very similar to a former A and Cardinal. Think "Lightening in a Bottle". Lets get positive!!!!!

ali said...

Don't we all wish we still had Hayden Penn?

Yeah... I'm never going to get over that.

Matt said...

I like the new addition of pictures - good touch. I have to agree with Tim. The bullpen this season, much like last season, is a lost cause. As much as there's a few "above mediocre players," we're not dealing with many lights-out pitchers. Most of these guys throw mid to low 90s, or weird change ups that never really work out right.

Yeah, Hayden Penn would be nice...