Last week, Steve Melewski posted an interested topic on his blog at MASNSports.com about Jake Arrieta possibly having a role in the bullpen. I do not think the organization is really debating whether they should move him up to be a reliever. If anything is going on related to Arrieta, it is specifically as to if it would be the right thing to do to bring him up now or let him continue developing, and also if they should use him in the struggling ‘pen or as a starter.
So here is the bullpen overall as of Wednesday night:
Matt Albers, Cla Meredith, Jason Berken, Mark Hendrickson, Will Ohman, Koji Uehara and Alfredo Simon.
Well, let’s look now at the options in the minors (that I consider to be MLB bullpen ready):
Alberto Castillo, Jim Johnson, Jake Arrieta, Kam Mickolio, and Pedro Viola.
Now how are those guys doing? Castillo was on and off, having solid outings, but then having no so great ones, like facing Robbie Cano in Baltimore last week (I don’t like thinking about that). He is also a lefty with Hendrickson and Ohman, so the O’s don’t feel the need for another lefty in the ‘pen, especially with his inconsistent pitching types (throws overhand, side-arm, and every so often a 3/4 pitch). He can be kept in AAA for now and will be used when needed. Good to have a veteran guy there though if need be for one.
Kam Mickolio won’t have a chance at anything until he gets his command issues under control, and until that happens, there’s no reason to even discuss him as an option. Pedro Viola is a high ERA pitcher with some experience in AAA, but he is also a lefty and won’t be used this year unless injuries really start coming. My consistent on Jake Arrieta is that he has a great arm and needs to keep with his development work in Norfolk, and I see no reason to mess with it. Especially with the record we have now, we are not in contention, so there is no reason to mess up a guy’s track in the organization when he could turn out to be a great starter of the future for the O’s.
Now to Jim Johnson. The guy is given no breaks on a club that gives too many breaks to almost every player. Trembley did finally work with MacPhail and punished some guys like Mickolio and Atkins for their horrendous stats, but then there are guys like Jones, Reimold, and Scott who are still consistently playing despite their terrible hitting numbers on the year. Johnson is a veteran of the team, despite being only 26, and he should be given breaks as much if not more than a guy like Jones who hasn’t even played a full season with the team yet. Also, people do not realize this, Jim Johnson is not doing horribly in his set-up role. His overall ERA may be 6.52 overall, but in the 8th innings, he has a 4.05 ERA. While that might not be incredible, it is still early in the season to be judged on ERA completely and he was pushed past his limit by pitching 2 or so innings in some games. That is not what he has been good at, and it is not something he is used to. Side note: He has better command during day games. 7:1 K:BB on day games and 2:3 on night games. Allowed his only homerun on the year during a night game as well.
Hm. Well, Albers definitely has proven himself lately after blowing 2 straight games against the Red Sox a week and a half ago and being on the chopping block for a bit until he caught fire and has been great as of late, finding his control once again. Cla Meredith, Mark Hendrickson, Jason Berken, and Will Ohman are basically locks for the season as long as none of them making any negative transitions. There are basically 3 spots or so that are up in the air and most likely will change at least a few more times throughout the season.
Arrieta needs to stay and develop. Don’t push him. Viola is worse than Castillo, so if any lefty would be used it would be Senor Alberto. Gonzo is still hurt. Mickolio does not have his command down yet.
The best bullpen would be Meredith, Hendrickson, Berken, Ohman, Johnson, Albers, and Simon. I love Alfredo, and he is on the top of my list to be the closer until we figure out the Gonzo situation. If we let him close, JJ can go back to set-up, and I think we are set with that. That is the order that has obviously worked best, so I do not know why we have strayed away from it. I know I have left Uehara out so far. That is because I have no opinion on him. He hasn’t really shown much for the team. Ever. Except that he can get injured. So this bullpen isn’t the one as of now since Koji is taking JJ’s spot (for now), but I expect him to get injured or for JJ to come up somehow. By the end of this month, the bullpen should be what I said or switch maybe Simon out for Uehara (I hate that idea but the O’s will do it because they don’t like winning it seems).
Now, the other issue is what to do when Arrieta and Tillman are ready for the bigs. Both will get rotation spots soon enough, and whoever is kicked out is either off the team or in the bullpen, depending on who. For instance, Hernandez could be converted to a bullpen guy. Guthrie, though, is a starter and we would not try him in the ‘pen. We will just have to wait and see how that works out along with the constand and nagging injuries that come about. The issue they will have to deal with is that the starting pitching has been very good quality so far, and the bullpen is the main issue (in terms of pitching, the hitting is what overall drags us down the most), so it will be a tough decision to demote a guy like Hernandez or Guthrie if they keep up with solid starts (both of them have had bad starts their last times out, but we will see if that trend continues, although both were against the Yankees).