The biggest issue staring the Baltimore Orioles right in the fact right now is the fact that the bullpen is a bit overworked. In monitoring twitter, facebook, and other social media after the game, a lot of fans seemed to be angered by this as if it were something that just happened. The fact is that the bullpen was gassed well before yesterday’s blown game in Oakland; that was just the first time that it had cost the Orioles a game. However for what it’s worth as the Birds go into tonight’s series opener in Seattle, Tommy Hunter, T.J. McFarland, and Jim Johnson did not work in yesterday’s game. Therefore the Birds do in theory have some fresh arms in the pen, and I would suspect that either McFarland or Hunter would be the perennial first guy out of the pen if needed tonight. (And Johnson is obviously available if needed to close.)
However might there be a way for the Orioles to get some bullpen relief moving forward? The O’s have off days on May 6th, 13th, and 15th. (And for the record, that’s some pretty poor scheduling on the part of MLB to have a team have two days off during a homestand while they have no day in between finishing up a series at home and opening another on the opposite coast.) Zach Britton will slide into the #5 starter role tonight, and his turn in the rotation would in theory come up again on Saturday afternoon in Anaheim. With the days off in between, the O’s could certainly afford to send Britton (or someone else for that matter) back to the minor leagues in order to call up and carry an extra reliever on the roster.
I would suspect and hope that this is something that’s being thrown around between Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette as we speak. In order to garner the most return out of a move like this, the O’s would want to decide on who they wanted to summon to the big league club, and have that person join the team either on Saturday or Sunday in Anaheim. As soon as Saturday’s game is complete, they could option Britton back to triple-A, and add the new guy to the roster to be available to pitch in Sunday’s series finale. If needed, that guy could be the long man or first guy up in the pen on Sunday, which would still make him available to pitch next Tuesday in relief if needed when the O’s welcome the Kansas City Royals to Camden Yards on Tuesday night.
Given the frequency of the days off ahead, that would also allow the Orioles to go with a four-man rotation and to keep that fifth starter (presumably Britton) in the minors for the required ten days before recalling him. The way the season has shaped up for the first month or so, that extra reliever might serve the club better than carry a fifth starter when it’s not necessary to do so. Given this scenario, my guess would be that Steve Johnson (who’s currently making some rehab appearances in Norfolk) might be the first guy called up. Johnson of course made some starts towards the end of last season, however again at the moment I feel that the bullpen is something that needs attention.
If the Orioles go this route, my guess is that it would happen regardless of what happens this week. For all we know the O’s get a string of starts whereby the starter goes deep into the game coming up over the course of the next few days, giving the pen some rest. However again I suspect that if the scenario laid out above were to come to fruition, it would happen withstanding that possibility. I also suspect that it could happen regardless of how Britton pitches tonight and presumably on Saturday. He could have two great starts and end up on the way back to the minors. But that’s part of baseball (roster games that is).
As I said above, the Orioles do have three starters with a minimum of one game’s rest going into Seattle tonight. Safeco Field’s dimensions changed over the off season with the fences being brought in, but it’s still a park that will play better for pitchers than hitters. It will also be nice for the Orioles to see Robert Andino, their former teammate who was dealt to Seattle in the off season.