For the past six seasons, the Orioles' bullpen has been a team strength. Here are five things to know about the team's relievers in 2017.
1. The bullpen wasn't quite as good in 2017 as it has been in the past.
In 2017, Orioles relievers had a 3.93 ERA. That was their highest since 2011, when they had a 4.18 ERA.
The bullpen was asked to pitch more because of the starters' ineffectiveness. In 2017, relievers accounted for 595 innings, just less than four innings a game. The year before, they were asked to pitch 546, and their ERA was more than a half-run better at 3.40.
In 2014 when the Orioles handily won the American League East, the bullpen only had to pitch 507.2 innings and had a 3.10 ERA.
2. How much of a factor was Zach Britton's injuries?
The closer, who in 2016 converted all 47 of his save opportunities, missed almost all of this season's first half with a left forearm injury and ended the year sidelined because of a knee issue.
Without Britton -- who pitched in 38 games, 31 fewer than the year before -- the Orioles used a bevy of relievers in the first half, and many weren't up to big league standards.
In June, a month when both Britton and right-hander Darren O'Day were on the disabled list, the bullpen had a 5.06 ERA and allowed 24 home runs.
3. Brad Brach didn't step up in Britton's absence.
The Orioles had hoped Brach would slide into Britton's closing role, and while Brach wasn't bad, the right-hander wasn't nearly as effective as Britton.
Brach's ERA jumped from 2.05 in 2016, when he made the AL All-Star team, to 3.18. In May, a month in which the injured Britton didn't pitch at all, Brach's ERA was 5.40, and in each of the final two months of the season, he had an ERA higher than 4.00.
Overall, Brach saved 18 games and blew six opportunities.
4. Darren O'Day finished the season solidly.
O'Day missed half of 2016 with injuries, and when his right shoulder acted up and he went to the disabled list in June, there were more worries about him.
But O'Day rebounded well, and from Aug. 1 on he had a 1.14 ERA.
O'Day turned 35 Oct. 22, and he still has two years remaining on a four-year, $31 million contract. His last two months give the Orioles hope he can continue to be a solid contributor in 2018 and 2019.
5. Mychal Givens has an unbelievable record.
While victories aren't a true indication of a reliever's effectiveness, Givens is 18-3 with a 2.75 ERA during his first three major leagues seasons.
The right-hander has yet to record a save, but in a trying year for the bullpen, Givens continued to show true signs of progress.
Left-handers hit .366 against Givens in 2016. This year, Givens held left-handers to a .184 average. Right-handers didn't fare terribly well against Givens, either, hitting .209 in 2017.
While Brach and Britton are due for big raises in their final year of arbitration eligibility, Givens won't even be eligible for arbitration until a year from now, and he remains under the Orioles' control through the 2021 season.
Unless the Orioles trade Brach or Britton, the bullpen is likely to look quite similar in 2018. In addition to Brach, Britton, Givens and O'Day, left-hander Richard Bleier, a nice surprise with a 1.99 ERA, will return.
Left-hander Donnie Hart, who wasn't as strong in 2017 as he was in an abbreviated rookie year in 2016, isn't assured of a spot, but may be back.
Right-hander Miguel Castro might also be in the bullpen again if the Orioles decide he's not suited to starting. Jimmy Yacabonis, a right-hander who impressed late in the season, might be in the mix, too.
Certainly there will be some non-roster invitees to spring training as well as a few 40-man additions from the minor leagues and perhaps an inexpensive free-agent signing or two.
NOTES: Left-hander Tanner Scott and third baseman Ryan Mountcastle have been named to the Arizona Fall League's Stars Game, which is Nov. 4. … The Orioles will hold their annual FanFest Jan. 27 at the Baltimore Convention Center.