Surprise! Bullpen Will Get New Look
By Craig Heist
For the Orioles, spending $42 million in the offseason to revamp a bullpen that was one of the worst in baseball in 2006 was supposed to be one of the keys to a successful 2007. It obviously hasn’t worked out that way, and the one person they paid most of that money to is done for the year, and quite possibly 2008 as well. Danys Baez didn’t make the trip with the club to Toronto in order to get an MRI on his right elbow.
Before sustaining an elbow injury, reliever Danys Baez finished out a lackluster season with a 6.44 ERA and an 0-6 record in 53 games. (Mitch Stringer/PressBox)
The results were not good. Baez has a partial ligament tear in the elbow. He will seek a second opinion and will wait until then to decide if he needs surgery or if he will try to rehab the injury.
With closer Chris Ray already on the shelf next year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, manager Dave Trembley says changes in the bullpen for next season are a certainty.
“Whether Danys was going to pitch for us next year or not,” Trembley said. “Knowing that Chris is going to be out all of next season, I think we’re already prepared that we’re going to have to make some changes in our bullpen. If Baez is going to be missing next year too, that’s just another piece of the puzzle we are going to have to try and figure out.”
When Ray went on the disabled list, Baez was just coming back from a stint on the DL and it forced Trembley to use Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker at the back end of the bullpen. It was not the ideal situation to use the pair in roles they are not accustomed to, much less brought here to do.
The season has been a tough one for Baez. He was signed to a three-year, $19 million contract in the offseason and it has been anything but what the Orioles envisioned. He has gone 0-6 this season with an ERA of 6.44 and just three saves.
SALVAGING THE WEEK
After losing 18 of 21 games since Trembley signed his contract extension, the Orioles came up with a great pitching effort last week from Jon Leicester, who threw shutout ball for 5.2 innings as he out-dueled John Lackey of the Angels in a 3-0 win on the final day of the homestand.
It was the kind of game the Orioles needed, because even when they were scoring enough runs to win, the pitching wasn’t able to stop the opposing team. Unfortunately, Trembley wasn’t able to manage the team, serving his three-game suspension for inappropriate conduct after being ejected during a previous game.
Leicester has won his two starts but has yet to go further than six innings. He said working quickly and getting ahead in the count made for an enjoyable night.
“You keep your defense on their toes when you do that, and they make great plays behind you,” said Leicester. “That’s what they did all night for me. That’s the way I like to pitch, just trying to throw strikes and get those early outs.”
On Friday night, Brian Burres stepped up and did something he hasn’t been able to do consistently this season -- throw strikes. He had success early in the season, but was yanked from the rotation for his inability to command the strike zone.
Injuries to Erik Bedard, Garrett Olson and Jeremy Guthrie forced the Orioles to give Burres another look. He didn’t disappoint. Burres threw shutout ball over seven innings while fanning eight in the O’s 6-2 win. He said Trembley challenged him to get his act together and start throwing like he did earlier in the year.
“He just told me, ‘Hey, let’s get it going and get after people. If you are going to get hit, don’t walk two guys and get hit. Make them put it together,’” Burres said.
Saturday, they ran into Roy Halladay, and Kurt Birkins couldn’t keep the momentum going from the previous two days.
Birkins gave up six runs in the first inning and didn’t record an out as the Blue Jays went on to an 8-3 win. The outing got Birkins a trip back to the bullpen and newly acquired Victor Zambrano will make Birkins' next start on Thursday against the Rangers. Zambrano threw four innings in the game Saturday.
Sunday, the Orioles not only won the game 8-6 in 12 innings, but got some good news on the injury front. Melvin Mora returned to the lineup after missing three days with tightness in his lower back. Mora went 2-for-4 on the day.
Nick Markakis hit his 20th homer of the year and also drove in his 100th run, making him the 35th person in club history to reach that plateau. At 23, Markakis has solidified his position as one of the club’s few untouchables.
In taking two of three from the Jays, the Orioles won a series for the first time since Aug. 13-15 against the Yankees in New York. They had lost eight straight series prior to that.
GROVER’S NEW GIG
Former Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, who stepped down as manager of the Seattle Mariners July 1, has taken a job to manage the Liberal BeeJays, one of the most successful summer teams for college-age players in Liberal, Kan., about 50 miles from where Hargrove grew up in Perryton, Texas. Hargrove played for the team more than 30 years ago.
“When I resigned from managing the Mariners, I said I hadn’t lost my passion for the game, but maybe lost my passion for the job a little bit,” Hargrove told The Associated Press. “Working with the BeeJays sounds interesting and exciting and fun. If I can help them, then it’s the best of both worlds.”
Some of the major league players who have played for the BeeJays include Troy Percival, Andy Phillips, Daniel Ortmeier and Hargrove himself, who was there in the summer of 1972 while he was on the roster for Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
Issue 2.38: September 20, 2007