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.