The Baltimore Orioles had a fantastic 2012 and largely in part because of how well the bullpen performed as they ranked fifth in the league in bullpen ERA in 2012. Coming into this season, the Orioles bullpen remains largely intact, but the question will be who will starts the season in Baltimore's bullpen.
Let's first answer one question, who is in the bullpen for sure right now? My answer to that is Jim Johnson, Luis Ayala, Troy Patton, Pedro Strop, and Darren O'Day, thus leaving two or three spots available in the bullpen depending on whether or not Buck Showalter will want to go with seven or eight relievers. Odds are, he will elect to have eight out in the bullpen, so who gets the other three spots?
Let me hand one of those out right now, Tommy Hunter will be out there in the bullpen this season on a full time basis. He can pitch long relief, short relief or even one batter, but showed last year that when he comes out of the bullpen, he is going to throw gas as he topped 100 MPH several times and look for him to be a mainstay in the pen in 2013.
So now we have two spots left, and a lot of it will depend on who wins the fifth spot in the starting rotation. If you read my article earlier in the week, you know that I stated I believe that Zach Britton will win that fifth spot in the starting rotation, so let's work off of that assumption.
Let's go ahead and hand out another spot, and that will go to Brian Matusz as I firmly believe that if Matusz does not earn a spot in the Orioles starting rotation in Spring Training, they will keep him on the big league roster and place him in the bullpen. Matusz showed last year that he can be very effective out of the bullpen once he was moved there late last season, and was arguably the Orioles second best reliever, behind Jim Johnson, down the stretch.
Thus that leaves one spot for several, and when I say several, I mean too many players to name that would be competing for the final spot in the Baltimore bullpen. Unfortunately, I believe it is a moot point as the fact that Baltimore took T.J. McFarland in the Rule 5 draft (MLB Level), he has to remain on the 25-man roster, exactly like Ryan Flaherty last season, so I believe he is going to get that final spot in the bullpen, leaving guys like Steve Johnson, Jair Jurrjens and Jake Arrieta pitching in AAA Norfolk's starting rotation, which may be better for them than pitching out of the bullpen anyway.
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