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2010 Orioles Position-By-Position: Bullpen

When the Orioles first reported to Sarasota, before performance and injuries began to dominate the discussion, bullpen makeup was the drama to watch. Not so much because it’s exciting, but because it was the main place to look for competition. Only four of the seven spots were guaranteed and at least six guys figured to have a chance.

The situation is roughly the same today, with the added wild card of Koji‘s lingering hamstring issues. The only things we know for sure are that Mike Gonzalez is the closer, Mark Hendrickson is the longman, and Jim Johnson is the main setup guy.

It seems like Cla Meredith and Will Ohman have come pretty close to locking down spots of their own. Ohman has a straight 0.00 ERA through six innings, with 9 K to only 2 BB. Meredith has a 1.29 with 5 K and 0 BB and only one of his runs was earned. Spring training stats don’t mean much, as we know, but I give those two the edge based on two things: the buzz out of camp and the fact that both bring a lot of experience to the table. That and it’s one righty, one lefty. Makes sense.

That’s five spots out of seven. If Koji is healthy, that’s six. So we have one or two more spots to fill with just under three weeks to go.

Of the remaining competitors, Castillo, Mickolio, and Albers have strong numbers. Sarfate is lagging behind. There are other pitchers in camp, too, but I’ll stick with the early projections that those are the main names in the mix.

My guess is that Mickolio has the last spot based on the fact that DT has been talking him up since camp opened. If Koji heads to the DL, it seems like maybe carrying Castillo (another lefty) might make sense, but I’m not sure there’s much difference between him and Albers.

I wish it didn’t matter as much as it does. I don’t like the way that 5-6 innings and soft caps on pitch counts have become the norm for starters. But I get it. So, as things stand, those seven spots matter a great deal. Overall I like the options in place, and I like the fact that we’ll have some legit depth at AAA when we need it. We can be sure that the seven guys who open the season won’t be the same seven in place at the end.

Whoever steps in at any given moment will be charged with both helping protect a young starting staff and advancing the cause of Meaningful Improvement. The bullpen was a major concern last year (second-to-last in the AL by ERA) and that has to change. Early returns suggest it will.

11 comments to 2010 Orioles Position-By-Position: Bullpen

  • neal s

    As a side note, I heard Ohman on 105.7 this afternoon and he’s a great interview. I wish the station had their shit together, website-wise, because it’d be great to share a link.

    I think we’re going to love that guy if/when he makes the team. I don’t know if he’s on par with ‘Ol FlatBrim but he was a lot of fun to listen to.

  • Neal – I also heard the Ohman hit and it was pretty entertaining. Sounds like he’ll fill the Millar/Walker void as “clubhouse character”, which is great and all, especially if he has the potential to not be awful like 2008-09 Walker.

    I tend to think that Albers gets the last spot in the ‘pen, particularly out of camp. He has no options and Mickolio still has one. Besides, Kam has struggled with his control (small sample size and all, but 5 BB and 6 K in 7.1 IP).

  • Andrew

    @Kevin B – I agree. You don’t want contracts to dictate actions, but it makes no sense to throw away a good bullpen arm when you know you’re basically going to be using all of these guys at some point. If Koji goes down (it sounds like he won’t) or whenever the O’s need their first replacement arm, I gotta believe it’ll be Kam the Almighty’s turn first.

    Dave Stockstill’s been sacked. Robothal says the Orioles simply weren’t happy with the way he did his job, but I’m vaguely curious to see how Roch spins it.

  • dan the man

    This is how Tony from OH spun it, for what it’s worth. And ridiculous as the site is, I do generally respect his opinion:

    Although I’m sure the Orioles will spin this as a move to extenuate the positives of each guy, there’s been some real concern over the communication within the organization. There was certainly friction between the scouting department and the player development side and that did not help the cohesiveness of the organization as a whole.

    I don’t really want to get into all the things I know about the situation, but I will say that John Stockstill is highly thought of and has a totally different personality than David. He’s been a scouting director before and he certainly has a great baseball background.

    I’ve found John to be very approachable and in our conversations over the the last few years I’ve found him to be extremely knowledgeable.

    I also have heard great things about Brian Graham and I’m interested in knowing what his “expanded role” will be. A lot of people felt he was next in line to be the Farm Director so it will be interesting to see how his role expends. He was under utilized under David Stockstill from what I heard.

    Tripp Norton has been around a long time and he’s a friend of the Hangout. Tripp is an unsung hero for doing a lot of the administrative side of things and he’s truly a loyal guy to the organization. I’m glad to hear his role is expanding as well.

    Overall I find this a good thing for the organization. Those I’ve talked to are pretty happy about the situation and it will be interesting to watch how this effects things in the minor league in 2010 and beyond.

    Sounds good to me. No reason not to trust MacPhail on this one, I say.

  • Andrew

    @dan the man – Of course, John Stockstill worked with Andy….in the Cubs organization (dun Dun DUN!). To clarify, I’m not worked up about it. Gosh, someone got fired! Oh no! But it’s an interesting story, because in all of my minor league reading, I hadn’t heard a single bad word about Dave Stockstill – which I guess is a testament to a ship that isn’t leaky with dissension.

  • neal s


    The thing about stories like this is that there’s always more to it than we’ll ever know. Even someone with sources, like Tony at OH, is only getting a snippet of the full picture. I think we do know one thing, though: that MacPhail is a patient, diligent decision maker. Maybe to a fault sometimes. I don’t think he shakes up the front office three weeks before Opening Day unless he’s convinced it makes this team better, short and long term.

    Another angle: how awkward must it be for Dave Stockstill to essentially be replaced by his own brother?

  • dan the man

    I guess on one hand though, you have to be a little concerned with how D. Stockstill performs in his new international role if they didn’t like him in his current role. Roch says he’s getting a pay raise to boot, too. Interesting… overall I give the whole thing a “meh” because we don’t know a whole lot, so it’s either trust Andy or make a fuss about something we don’t know much about.

  • Andrew

    @dan the man – I’m less than thrilled with the international department as it is, so it could also be simply a way to shake things up for the better in the farm system and to try to give a little juice to the international side of things.

    Dan’s right, though, this is kind of a “meh” thing because we’ll never hear exactly what MacPhail or the Stockstills are thinking here.

  • Andrew

    Wait. Per Roch:

    The reasoning for the switch, I’m told, is that David has been doing most of the traveling outside the country, and John has been closer to the minor league operation. John also lives in Maryland.

    Wait. That don’t make a lick of sense. It sounds like they had already unofficially switched months and months ago. So why is Dave getting a raise? Is John getting a raise? Why did they have Dave giving quotes on minor leaguers if they had already switched de facto roles? Didn’t we hear a lot about John going to Venezuela and Australia and whereever and “coming back with a couple of prospects”? So was that actually Dave, since he was “doing most of the traveling outside the country”? Are these guys that easy to mix up?

    I’m confused, and the whole thing now reads like a quick shuffling. Not that it particularly matters, I guess. But there are things…out of place in my mind on this.

  • dan the man

    The other thing to mention about Will Ohman is that, if he’s effective for the O’s, then that’s a hell of a good minor league signing. He made $1.5 million last year for the Dodgers when he was still ineffective coming off the injury and $2.5 million over 2 years with the Cubs. If he’s as good as he’s looked in spring training, we’re getting a hell of a reliever for dirt cheap.

  • dan the man

    Spring Training or not, it’s a huge relief to see Bergesen blank the Yanks over 5 2/3, and looking like himself out there, too.

    Nice 2 run double from Wieters and 2-run shot from Jones, too.