Orioles' bullpen might be a bright spot for new manager - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ bullpen might be a bright spot for new manager

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

The Orioles’ new manager will have lots of question marks and players to evaluate. One area that might be a pleasant surprise is the bullpen.

Although the bullpen’s earned run average wasn’t very good (4.76) in 2018, it was better than the Orioles’ starters’ (5.49). And, because of so many short starts, the bullpen averaged nearly four innings per game, putting an inordinate amount of pressure on it.

Twenty-four relievers were used, and for the first time in club history, two of them were position players: infielders Danny Valencia and Jace Peterson.

It got so bad that Peterson was needed for an inning on Sept. 26, well after the rosters were expanded.

Despite the 115-loss season, there are a handful of relievers who might catch the eye of the next manager.

Mychal Givens became the team’s closer after Zach Britton and Brad Brach were traded. The Orioles also dealt Darren O’Day, who sustained a season-ending hamstring injury in June. Givens was 18-3 in his first three seasons, but last year was 0-7 with a 3.99 ERA. He recorded his first nine major league saves, but blew four save opportunities.

However, Givens performed much better in the season’s final two months and ended the season by pitching eight perfect innings from Sept. 18-30.

Because the Orioles played so poorly, Givens’ work went relatively unnoticed, and it didn’t help that save chances were few and far between.

Another late standout was Paul Fry, who threw six perfect innings in his final two games. The left-hander had a 3.35 ERA in 35 games.

Fry, who was acquired for international signing bonus money from Seattle in April 2017, replaced another left-hander, Richard Bleier, who had surgery to repair a torn lat muscle in June.

Bleier is 5-1 with a 1.97 ERA in his two seasons with the Orioles. Had he been healthy, he could have been another valuable trade chip because he has four more seasons under club control.

The Orioles hope Bleier will be ready for spring training.

Bleier and Fry could be joined by a third left-hander, Tanner Scott, whose potential is exciting. Scott had a 5.40 ERA but struck out 76 batters in 53 1/3 innings. Control is an issue for Scott, who averaged nearly five walks per nine innings.

Another intriguing pitcher is swingman Jimmy Yacabonis, who started for the first time as a professional last season. Yacabonis could be a depth piece as a starter or a long man in the bullpen. His 5.40 ERA and 1.450 WHIP will have to fall dramatically for him to make an impact in the majors.

Miguel Castro pitched 62 times in relief, second most to Givens. Considering how bad the Orioles were, Castro’s 3.96 ERA was solid, but he walked 50 batters in 86 1/3 innings. That must improve.

Mike Wright Jr. stayed with the team because he was out of options, and he’ll have to improve on his 5.55 ERA and nearly 11 hits per nine innings.

Another reliever who’ll have to do far better to stay with the team is left-hander Donnie Hart, who had a spectacular 2016 season when he allowed just one run in 18 1/3 innings (0.49 ERA). Last season, in eight different stints with the Orioles, Hart had a 5.59 ERA, allowing more than 14 hits per nine innings.

Sean Gilmartin, yet another left-hander, had a 3.00 ERA in 12 games and was valuable in September games when the team needed length.

Other incumbents include Ryan Meisinger (6.43 ERA in 18 games) and two pitchers acquired in July trades, Evan Phillips (18.56 in five games) and Cody Carroll (9.00 ERA in 15 games).

One pitcher who’s essentially guaranteed an Opening Day roster spot is Pedro Araujo, who is the only one of three Rule 5 picks remaining with the club. Because of an elbow injury suffered in June, Araujo fell 17 days short of the required 90 days on the roster, so he’ll have to at least begin 2019 with the Orioles if he’s healthy.

Araujo, who had no real experience above Class-A before last season, was overmatched  with a 7.71 ERA in 20 games.

Other candidates who didn’t get to pitch with the Orioles are left-hander Luis Gonzalez and right-hander Branden Kline, who could be added to the 40-man roster. Neither was added to the 25-man roster in September.

The Orioles’ new manager will have different opinions on many of these relievers, but some of the choices appear better than in other areas.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. PA Bird Lover

    October 25, 2018 at 11:37 am

    First a GM then a manager. If the organization hasn’t changed its way, considering PA is stepping back (is he) those two positions likely will be puppets anyway. The best news would be for a human, not a robot, doing deals from his own office without the two sons, the old man and Brady looking over his shoulder.
    I’m reluctant to include new ownership for fear the Birds would fly away.

  2. Ekim

    October 25, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    Rich… and Santa might give me a new Mercedes for Christmas. Just sayin…

  3. boss61

    October 25, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    The Orioles would do well to carefully listen to any trade offer for any reliever (or any player for that matter), over 27 years old or within a couple of years of free agency. The rebuild will be long and comprehensive, and the route to sustainable contention rarely is direct and obvious. No one mentioned in this article has “prospect” written all over them. They can, and should, be moved for younger and more promising prospects, given any reasonable opportunity to do so.

  4. Orial

    October 25, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    Article is right on Rich. Scott/Fry combo wth a little seasoning could be special,Bleier was solid. Givens could and should be trade bait. There are so many new arms in the system via trades that possibly more help could appear. Hey even with a potential more progressive mgr on the way a bullpen dominated game(a la Tampa) may result. Very anxious to get the VP/GM/Mgr situation resolved so will can apply the gas pedal again.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 25, 2018 at 9:50 pm

      Appreciate it, Orial.

  5. Maka

    October 25, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    Rich-I don’t see the bullpen as a strength at the present time. We have a bunch of very inconsistent arms that can be effective at times. It is time to weed out the contenders (for bullpen slots), from the pretenders. If the game is on the line, I am not sure any of these reliever could hold a lead. If we find a few gems, let keep them and find more, versus trading for prospects. We have plenty of prospects but not enough real talent. Let’s hold on to and build upon our talent. At this point in time, there are no strength in the major league rosters.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 25, 2018 at 9:51 pm

      Maka, I think comparing the bullpen to other positions on the club, it’s in slightly better shape.

  6. BirdsCaps

    October 25, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    I concur with Maka, and argue that the group in the pen can give us hope but not a surefire bright spot. I think Givens may very well become a good closer with the potential to become elite, if he further refines his skills. The rest of the pen has the potential to be good, however I wouldn’t be as optimistic as to call it bright spot. I am torn between calling the ’19 bullpen mediocre or maybe a less bad spot in the abyss of the ’19 40-man.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 25, 2018 at 9:52 pm

      BirdsCaps, you’re right, we’re grading on the curve here.

  7. TxBirdFan

    October 25, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    The relievers only look good because the starters were so bad. I don’t think the Orioles have a bright spot right now Rich.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 26, 2018 at 8:14 am

      Actually, Tx, the starters being bad makes the bullpen worse. It means more innings, exposing your pitchers to more hitters, and forcing more pitchers to the big leagues that shouldn’t be there.

      Is it a shock that Mychal Givens’ numbers pre-trade deadline were the first in his four seasons?

      Better starters would mean better performances from this group of relievers.

      • John in Cincy

        October 28, 2018 at 11:44 pm

        My apology for being critical of your remark about Araujo’s spot on the opening day roster being “essentially guaranteed”. I passed over the part where you noted that he has just 17 days to go before he can be sent down–if it had been the proverbial snake…etc.

        So, obviously it makes sense for the Orioles to hang on to him. Again, sorry for my ignorant remark.

  8. John in Cincy

    October 26, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    “One pitcher who’s essentially guaranteed an Opening Day roster spot is Pedro Araujo, who is the only one of three Rule 5 picks remaining with the club.”
    …………………………………………………………………………………
    I’s not sure how you see it that way, Rich. True, if Duquette and Showalter were still in the organization, yes, Araujo’s return would be all but guaranteed, however, their replacements could decide they want to get away from keeping Rule 5 players on the roster regardless, concluding that there are better pitching options than hanging on to him. Mind you, I’m not saying he won’t be back (and he did show some potential), but I just think there is too much uncertainty as to what the mindset of the new brain trust is going to be to take his return for granted.

    • Jbigle1

      October 28, 2018 at 8:34 pm

      I’d say araujo’s spot is almost guaranteed. He doesn’t need much more time in the majors to lose his designation and with the orioles rebuilding we have tons of relievers with options. The next FO really only has to consider is 5+ years of araujo with a couple option years worth more than keeping a guy like mike wright or hart or yacobonis. Who I believe are all out of options. It just makes more sense to roll with araujo for a few weeks then call up an Evan Phillips or Cody Carroll.

      • John in Cincy

        October 28, 2018 at 11:38 pm

        I missed an important point in Rich’s column, which was right there in plain sight concerning the number of days left. So, my bad.

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