Orioles: Building the Birds’ Opening Day Bullpen


Feb 25, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Logan Verrett (64) throws a ball during spring training workouts at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles have numerous options who can pitch in the bullpen on Opening Day, and most with major league experience. How do all of those pitchers get fit into the bullpen?

Buck Showalter said that for Opening Day he only plans on carrying 11 or 12 pitchers. Let’s assume it is 12, because if it is 11, that likely means that eventually the bullpen will be expanding.

In addition, let us assume that Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris and Kevin Gausman are in the rotation. Yes, I think Ubaldo Jimenez is headed for the bullpen.

We know that Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, and Tommy Hunter all will be making up the back end of the bullpen. No surprises there.

Also, I addressed Jimenez being sent or relegated, depending on how you look at it, to the bullpen.  Let’s face it, he is going to be on the major league roster.

That leaves middle reliever types, which include Brad Brach, Ryan Webb, Wesley Wright and Jason Garcia.  And then there are the long-relievers/spot-starts, which include Brian Matusz, T.J. McFarland, Logan Verrett.  

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There is only room for three of these players.

So how do I think the Orioles get there?

I think Garcia is out.  He has been dealing with a hamstring issue and has missed some much-needed time.  He has not pitched beyond single-A baseball.  Although he looks like he is powerful stuff, he isn’t ready to make the jump to the majors. However, I anticipate the Orioles making a trade to keep him in the organization.

I think McFarland is headed for AAA. T.J. needs to be pitching long innings, enough to be a starter. With Ubaldo as the long reliever, that won’t happen in the majors.

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Differently, I think Brad Brach is in the bullpen.  He has pitched well this spring, and certainly had an excellent year in 2014. That leaves two spots open for Ryan Webb, Wesley Wright, Brian Matusz and Logan Verrett.

I think that both Matusz and Wesley Wright make the bullpen. As for Mike Wright, he looks like he could certainly be a piece for the Orioles, but not yet.

Welsey Wright gives the Orioles a second lefty in the bullpen, and Matusz gives them a third. Let’s face it, as much as Orioles fans like to bash Matusz because he doesn’t match up to some of the other relievers statistically, he has been pretty good.  Especially as a lefty specialist.  And, for a team with only one lefty starter, it is important to have several left-handers in the bullpen.

Webb has no options, and I think it is safe to say his time in Baltimore could be over.  He has been inconsistent since coming to Baltimore from the Miami Marlins, and the team just has so many other options.

That leaves just Logan Verrett. One way that Verrett could make this team is if Brian Matusz is traded. Two days ago, fellow writer Randy Buchman discussed that here.  Well, the Orioles could trade Matusz to the Mets, as rumored, for Verrett and another piece.

This would allow the team to send Verrett to the minors. Currently, as a Rule 5 player he has to be on the major league 25-man roster. It would allow the team to keep a player they really like.

My one concern with this is the lack of left-handers in the bullpen. However, Buck Showalter is a master of using the bullpen, and I trust that it will work out for the O’s.

Next: The big crowd of utility infielders on the O's