So as I said a few entries ago, I am busy in my finals weeks in school and have been loaded with papers to get in and tests to take, so haven’t had much time for extra O’s writing. But don’t worry, I have still been keeping up with it all and will be posting a big entry on the Yankees and Red Sox series overall, and including Minnesota in that too probably since I will write it Sunday night. Will be in Cleveland this weekend, and going to the Indians vs. Tigers game, so will put up a picture or two from that.
I currently do some writing for Baltimore Sports Report and this week I was asked to do a piece on the bullpen situation, specifically Arrieta vs. Jim Johnson. I was actually surprised by this request. I do not think the organization is debating in the bullpen specifically between these two. Instead, I will talk about the bullpen options and what I think should be done.
So here is the bullpen overall as of last night (Wednesday night):
Matt Albers, Cla Meredith, Jason Berken, Mark Hendrickson, Will Ohman, and Alfredo Simon. You can count Koji Uehara in too, though as of me writing this he isnt officially on the roster until gametime tonight in Minnesota.
Well, let’s look now at the options in the minors (that I consider to be MLB bullpen ready):
Alberto Castillo, Jim Johnson, Jake Arrieta, Kam Mickolio, and Pedro Viola.
Now how are those guys doing? Castillo was on and off, having solid outings, but then having no so great ones, like facing Robbie Cano in Baltimore last week (I don’t like thinking about that). He is also a lefty with Hendrickson and Ohman, so the O’s don’t feel the need for another lefty in the ‘pen, especially with his inconsistent pitching types (throws overhand, side-arm, and every so often a 3/4 pitch). He can be kept in AAA for now and will be used when needed. Good to have a veteran guy there though if need be for one.
Kam Mickolio won’t have a chance at anything until he gets his command issues under control, and until that happens, there’s no reason to even discuss him as an option. Pedro Viola is a high ERA pitcher with some experience in AAA, but he is also a lefty and won’t be used this year unless injuries really start coming. My consistent on Jake Arrieta is that he has a great arm and needs to keep with his development work in Norfolk, and I see no reason to mess with it. Especially with the record we have now, we are not in contention, so there is no reason to mess up a guy’s track in the organization when he could turn out to be a great starter of the future for the O’s.
Now to Jim Johnson. The guy is given no breaks on a club that gives too many breaks to almost every player. Trembley did finally work with MacPhail and punished some guys like Mickolio and Atkins for their horrendous stats, but then there are guys like Jones, Reimold, and Scott who are still consistently playing despite their terrible hitting numbers on the year. Johnson is a veteran of the team, despite being only 26, and he should be given breaks as much if not more than a guy like Jones who hasn’t even played a full season with the team yet. Also, people do not realize this, Jim Johnson is not doing horribly in his set-up role. His overall ERA may be 6.52 overall, but in the 8th innings, he has a 4.05 ERA. While that might not be incredible, it is still early in the season to be judged on ERA completely and he was pushed past his limit by pitching 2 or so innings in some games. That is not what he has been good at, and it is not something he is used to. Side note: He has better command during day games. 7:1 K:BB on day games and 2:3 on night games. Allowed his only homerun on the year during a night game as well.
Hm. Well, Albers definitely has proven himself lately after blowing 2 straight games against the Red Sox a week and a half ago and being on the chopping block for a bit until he caught fire and has been great as of late, finding his control once again. Cla Meredith, Mark Hendrickson, Jason Berken, and Will Ohman are basically locks for the season as long as none of them making any negative transitions. There are basically 3 spots or so that are up in the air and most likely will change at least a few more times throughout the season.
Arrieta needs to stay and develop. Don’t push him. Viola is worse than Castillo, so if any lefty would be used it would be Senor Alberto. Gonzo is still hurt. Mickolio does not have his command down yet.
The best bullpen would be Meredith, Hendrickson, Berken, Ohman, Johnson, Albers, and Simon. I love Alfredo, and he is on the top of my list to be the closer until we figure out the Gonzo situation. If we let him close, JJ can go back to set-up, and I think we are set with that. That is the order that has obviously worked best, so I do not know why we have strayed away from it. I know I have left Uehara out so far. That is because I have no opinion on him. He hasn’t really shown much for the team. Ever. Except that he can get injured. So this bullpen isn’t the one as of now since Koji is taking JJ’s spot (for now), but I expect him to get injured or for JJ to come up somehow. By the end of this month, the bullpen should be what I said or switch maybe Simon out for Uehara (I hate that idea but the O’s will do it because they don’t like winning it seems).
Now, the other issue is what to do when Arrieta and Tillman are ready for the bigs. Both will get rotation spots soon enough, and whoever is kicked out is either off the team or in the bullpen, depending on who. For instance, Hernandez could be converted to a bullpen guy. Guthrie, though, is a starter and we would not try him in the ‘pen. We will just have to wait and see how that works out along with the constand and nagging injuries that come about. The issue they will have to deal with is that the starting pitching has been very good quality so far, and the bullpen is the main issue (in terms of pitching, the hitting is what overall drags us down the most), so it will be a tough decision to demote a guy like Hernandez or Guthrie if they keep up with solid starts (both of them have had bad starts their last times out, but we will see if that trend continues, although both were against the Yankees).
As I said in an earlier entry, the next few weeks may be scarce interms of my entries, and most likely will not have game summaries and info on a daily basis. Still trying to get out a post every day or two about different topics. Since I have baseball games myself also, I did not get to catch the first few innings of each Yankee game, so that’s another reason why I am behind.
As for this entry. I have a question for the O’s. What the hell happened? The whole Boston series, the team looked legitimate. May have lost 2 of 3, but were in all 3 games, showed tons of patience and hitting, and kept up with positive starting pitching. The bad part was the bullpen, specifically Albers who blew the two games we lost in that series. The good part was that the bats were coming alive. We were having double digit hit games, multi-hit games for a lot of guys, and the bats of Markakis and Jones looked to be coming back.
The O’s arrived back in Baltimore, and decided to just stick with the trends from the beginning of the season after beating the Yankees on Tuesday. While Sabathia and Burnett were on top of their games, specifically Burnett who pitched his best stuff in a long time (unfortunately it had to come against us), but why did the bats just die. At least against Sabathia we got some hits, but it just looked flat out horrible. We lost the touch that the guys were able to find against the Red Sox on Sunday and the Yankees on Tuesday to bring guys in who were on base and not rack up the LOB statistic. Wednesday went back to the old crap where we get hits all spread apart and not score. Last night was just horrific. We had 3 total hits, and the whole lineup just looked out of it, specifically Wieters. The last two nights he has look mezmorized at the plate. Not sure what is going on, but I am hoping Crowley can help him get back on track to hitting .300+. He dropped below .300 last night, which is hard to see when he was one of the positive aspects of our offense before. Wigginton continued his hitting with one hit in each of the two past games. Who would have guessed Cesar Izturis would be our hottest bat at any time in the season. More to come on him later. I want to write a post about it, but might wait to see how he does vs. Lackey tonight.
The bullpen went back to the ‘Opposite Day’ concept. Here is what the stats and happenings are for the bullpen guys:
-Albers has pitched 2.1 innings (1 IP Wed. and 1.1 IP Thurs.) and in those outings only let one hit thru and got a K. He looks to have gotten his fastball under control. That is a good sign since he is a guy the team is hoping to build with for the future in the ‘pen.
-Castillo was brought up and had solid innings before yesterday of strikeouts and no runs. Unfortunately for him, he was brought in to face Robbie Cano, who smacked his 2nd HR of the night off of Castillo’s low speed side arm on the 2nd pitch.
-Hendrickson and Meredith both pitched an inning on Wednesday. The difficult part of this one is that neither looked bad. They both looked on top of their stuff, just the Yankees lineup is overpowering and talented. Luckily, between the 2.1 innings they pitched, they only let up 1 ER, but had 7 hits combined. Would have been more runs but Hendrickson inherited some Guthrie allowed hits.
-Berken and Ohman came in for 9th inning pitching in the 2 games. Berken smoothly got 2 outs, and Ohman got 3 with 2 Ks and 1 H. Sad that they couldn’t be for saves.
Just looks like the pitching is going downhill. Starters haven’t looked stellar. Sorry to Matusz, but you threw some ugly pitches. Overall, still looked great, but against a team like the Yankees, you can’t even give up one bad pitch without paying the price. Guthrie just was disgusting.
Hopefully this weekend the O’s can rebuild on their offense and the power they have shown a little bit lately. My hopes are for Wieters to get back with it, Jones to have a 3-3 or 4-4 night (he sincerely needs it), and Markakis keeps the slugging up. The reason I think those things are most important are because they are the heart of the lineup and that has been troubling all season.
Side story to follow: Who will fill the 5th rotation spot? Brittany Ghiroli reports that it is most likely Bergesen, and all signs point to that. MacPhail said to the media that nothing could be announced since a corresponding move would have to be made the day of game for that pitcher’s first start.
With only 1 ER in 25 IP this year so far, Jake Arrieta has looked stellar for AAA Norfolk. The main issue with bringing him up is that the team does not want to go off the path of his planned out development. The O’s did bring up Tillman quite early last year, so I see no reason why they wouldn’t surprise us with another move like that this year. Bergesen, on the other hand, seems to be the guy they want up there now. It is not anything against Arietta, it is just that the team wants both guys to eventually be in the rotation, and since Bergesen is the guy who is already set in a rotation spot in the future, they want him to be able to fill his role as soon as possible. Arrieta, on the other hand, could use another month or two or brilliant starts at the minor league level in order to fully prepare him for battling the AL East, something with Bergesen already has experience with and would probably be the better option for instead of putting in the rookie for his first start against the Red Sox clutch lineup.
Bergesen did throw 7 innings of 2 hit ball for Norfolk this past Sunday, which was a positive start for him considering the way he was blown off his rocker in his first 3 starts for the O’s this year.
Other options include giving the ball to Berken or Hendrickson for the one or two time start, but I think the O’s would rather leave them in the bullpen where they have been fantastic and let the Bergesen issues work themselves out. We will see by this weekend what Mr. MacPhail decides to do!