Even though I live in California, having been born & raised in a Baltimore sports family (my grandfather was the sports director at WBAL) has infused all things Orioles into my blood. I was talking with my cousin last week, also a major Orioles fan, and she posed a question to me: what is going to happen to the bullpen? As we all know, a huge part of what made the O’s so successful this past season was the amazing chemistry of the bullpen and the way that Buck was able to move the pieces around to get the wins they needed.
Now, as we look towards 2013, there are a few scenarios to consider. Let’s discuss:
1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I’m not sure anyone would fault management for resigning the relievers they need to resign & entering 2013 with the same group of guys. Each guy knows his strengths & knows that he won’t go long periods of time without going into a game. Jim Johnson may not strike out as many guys as we’d all like, but he didn’t get 51 saves with his eyes closed! Maybe they’ll stay away from the bullpen & focus on LF, a solid #1 pitcher & a 2nd baseman as many people are predicting.
2. Management might decide to bring the former starters (Steve Johnson, Tommy Hunter, Chris Tillman, & Brian Matusz among others) back into the fold of the rotation. I wouldn’t blame them for doing that, these guys are used to being starters; maybe spending time in the bullpen has given them their confidence back. If they do that, though, we’re suddenly down a few pieces (mainly Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter) who made a big impact in bullpen, especially in the postseason. It may not be a matter of whether they could find guys to replace the ones back in the rotation, but whether bringing in new blood would disrupt the chemistry that made the group so great this year.
3. Neither of the above scenarios happens, but management decides to focus more on bringing in a bigger name free agent, like a Josh Hamilton. Writers haven’t been shy about saying that the O’s should get a closer who strikes out more people than Jim Johnson, that they need more variety than Darren O’Day’s side arm delivery & Brian Matusz’s pure heaters. So, maybe management decides to change things up, shuffle the deck & see if they can find the chemistry again.
Right now, it’s hard to tell which way they’re going to lean. We’ll probably know a lot more after the winter meetings as to the direction the team is headed in 2013. The fact that they made it as far as they did without a true #1 pitcher is pretty miraculous. No disrespect to Nate McLouth, but confirmation of consistency in left field will be much needed, as well as more production out of whomever is chosen as the new 2nd baseman. Dan Duquette has not gotten enough credit, as noted in a previous column, for what a masterful job he did assembling the pieces that took the O’s to game 5 of the ALDS. My hope is that free agents will be, for the first time in 15 years, excited about the prospect of playing the game they love in front of Baltimore fans, who are knowledgeable & passionate. I look forward to hearing from you all, what path do you think the management will take when it comes to the bullpen? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter! Go O’s!