After finishing in the cellar of the AL East in 2009, the Baltimore Orioles enter 2010 with a lot of hope and optimism; something the city of Baltimore has not had for its beloved Orioles. The team and fans have bought into the Andy MacPhail blueprint for success. Next year, marks the next step in that blue print and will be one of the most important years for the Orioles in quite some time. MacPhail joined the Orioles front office and 2007. He wasted no time, getting rid of big contracts for youth and pitching in return. Baltimore dealt away Erik Bedard to the Mariners, whom the Orioles have had a lot of interest in acquiring during this off-season. It is also ironic, that one of McPhail’s first moves as general manager for the Orioles; was to trade Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros. Who, just recently signed a one year-six million dollar contract with the Birds. However, the deal is still pending a physical. Since 2007, MacPhail has stockpiled Baltimore’s farm system with both youth and pitching. Andy MacPhail talked about a vision he had for this club in 2007, now that vision is starting to become a reality.
Baltimore entered a talent deprived, 2009-10, offseason with glaring holes both offensively and defensively. Through a series of chain reactions, Baltimore added Kevin Millwood, via trade from Texas. Baltimore followed this by, two late December acquisitions of infielder Garret Atkins and relief/closer Mike Gonzalez. Now all that is left for MacPhail to address is the last spot(s) in the Orioles bullpen.
Last year, Baltimore’s bullpen finished 28th out of 30 MLB bullpens, with a 4.83 ERA. The Orioles’ bullpen was overused and overmatched throughout the season. Baltimore gave up a league tying 293 ER’s and an alarming .284 batting average against out of its bull pen; 14 points higher than the Los Angeles Angles, who finished 29th out of 30 teams. Also, Baltimore enters the 2010 season with three possible closer suitors (Mike Gonzalez, Jim Johnson, and Kam Mickolio). Jim Johnson will most likely return to his set-up spot after a disastrous attempt to fill former Orioles closer George Sherrill’s shoes. Johnson’s ERA was bloated to 4.11 after being named Orioles closer mid-season. Johnson had 10 saves; however, he blew a total of 6 saves. Kam Mickolio is another possible candidate for the closing job. Through only 11 games, Mickolio showed both poise and promise posting a 2.63 ERA. Like Johnson, Mickolio brings a big frame, standing at 6-9 and 250 pounds. Mickolio has not had any experience closing for the Orioles, but he managed to hold hitters to a .220 batting average against. Newly acquired Mike Gonzalez, had great success last year out of Atlanta’s bullpen with a 2.42 ERA. Gonzalez has wicked stuff tallying 90 K’s in 70 IP. However, Gonzalez only saved 10 of 17 games last year for the Braves. It is doubtful that the Orioles will add another late inning arm. Thus, leaving Baltimore’s set-up/closer spots to these three men; it’s just not certain at this time which of the three will be the opening day closer.
Baltimore still has yet to sign LHP Mark Hendrickson, who put together a solid campaign as the Orioles long reliever last year. If resigned, Hendrickson most likely would be accompanied by either David Hernandez or Jason Berken, whom both had time in the Orioles starting rotation last year. The remaining free agent relief pitching is a little scarce; however, there are a few proven guys. I view these three guys as potential free agent suitors:
Joe Beimel-32-LHP-At 32 years of age and 9 years in the league, Beimel is a sure veteran. Last year for the Nationals Beimel had a 3.40 ERA in just less than forty innings pitched. If healthy, Beimel has the ability to pitch seventy innings out of relief. Furthermore, Beimel is a good ground ball hitter and pitches to both left and right handed pitchers effectively
Will Ohman-32-LHP- Will Ohman only pitched 12 innings last year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. His numbers in those 12 innings were not stellar, but if Ohman can recover and regain his ability to throw the ball for strikes; he could be a good fit for the Orioles bullpen. Ohman’s fastball has the ability to hit the mid-90’s and he compliments it with a devastating slider. If healthy, Ohman is able to pitch on short rest; something that most of the Orioles bull pen struggled with last year.
Jeff Weaver-35-RHP- Although Weaver is the oldest of the three. He brings success as both a starter and reliever. Weaver pitched primarily as a reliever for the first time is his career for the Los Angeles Dodgers and had a respectable ERA of 3.65. Also, Weaver surrendered only 33 walks on 79 innings pitched. Weaver is still able to crank up his fast ball and with great control, he would be a great pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles
These are just three potential candidates that the Orioles could pursue not with the last name of Bedard. Baltimore is looking for a low-risk, high-reward pitcher and if the price is right I think any one of these guys can help improve a revamped bull pen.