Veteran lefty reliever Craig Breslow has reinvented himself with a new arm slot and pitch. The Baltimore Orioles should be intrigued.
The Baltimore Orioles have one of the best bullpens in baseball, and that has been the case for the past five seasons as the franchise resurrected itself. One of the more interesting things to watch with all of that success has been the team’s ability to harness pitchers with unique deliveries, pitches, and arm slots.
Darren O’Day obviously leads the way as a true submariner, but Mychal Givens, Brad Brach, and Donnie Hart all come to the plate with their own unique throwing motion that gives hitters fits. If there is a market on relievers with difficult release points, the Orioles certainly have it cornered.
Now, there is another interesting name for the team to consider — Craig Breslow. The 36-year-old southpaw has been working hard to reinvent himself with a new arm slot and increased movement on his pitches through the use of technology.
Breslow, who majored in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale, has been using the Raspodo device to track all sorts of data on his pitches — tilt, spin rate, velocity, spin efficiency — and apparently it has worked wonders for him, leaving scouts very impressed with his progress. His data already shows an increase in horizontal movement of nine inches and a six more inches of vertical drop on his two-seam fastball. That type of movement could have him throwing a sinker that could rival Zach Britton‘s, albeit with slightly less velocity.
The Orioles do not have an immediate need for more bullpen help, but it would always make sense to consider adding another arm when the rotation comes with the usual question marks and potential pitfalls.
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In 2016, the Baltimore ‘pen had the best ERA in the American League, but finished fourth in total innings. O’Day hit the DL twice, and did not match his 2015 All-Star form. Brach earned an All-Star nod, but struggled in the second half as the innings piled up. The bullpen did not have a dedicated left-handed specialist until late in the year, when Hart emerged as a weapon. He should have a spot on the 25-man when the team breaks camp.
Another dominant left-hander with an unhittable two-seamer would be a welcome addition to the bullpen for the Orioles. Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun currently has Oliver Drake and Logan Verrett making his “way-too-early” projected roster. Verrett is a good bet to make the roster after the Orioles missed out on Vance Worley. He will fill the “innings eater” role in the fifth and sixth inning of lopsided games. Drake had a strong finish to the year in September, but falls way down in the pecking order behind the other right-handers in the bullpen.
Not having a dedicated left-handed specialist hurt the Orioles at times last year. Hart excelled as a rookie in limited action, but has yet to prove he can do it for an entire year in the big leagues. The Orioles have pitched so well in relief the past few years because their pitchers have the types of arsenals that are effective against hitters from both sides of the plate. If Breslow’s new sinker is indeed as dominant as scouts project it to be, he would join the bunch, and may not need to be limited to pitching only to left-handers like Hart will be.
Several other teams are reportedly after Breslow — Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, to name a few. The Twins do not make much sense for a vet like Breslow, who will likely want to pitch for a good team. The Blue Jays desperately need bullpen help, and the Indians are in the same boat as the Orioles with a strong bullpen. It would not surprise to see the Orioles get involved on Breslow, especially considering their success in managing relievers with awkward deliveries and arm slots. He would not command a very high price (perhaps even a non-guaranteed MiLB deal), which would allow the Orioles to save for a deadline pickup this summer.
The starting rotation is the most glaring weakness the Orioles face heading into the new season, and there are very few ways to address it at this point. Instead, add to the team’s biggest strength, the bullpen, by gambling on a pitcher who could be on the verge of mastering a new pitch. For many reasons, taking a flier on Craig Breslow makes a great deal of sense for the Orioles.