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December 1, 2010

Searching for some relief

As the rumors continue to swirl around the Orioles, more and more will revolve around the bullpen.

In recent days the Orioles have been reported as interested in Jesse Crain and Kevin Gregg. They are, but the truth is, the list is much longer.

The Orioles have interest in any competent, veteran reliever, so add in a bunch more. Guys such as Grant Balfour and J.J. Putz and Matt Guerrier and Brian Fuentes and Scott Downs and our old buddy, Will Ohman, among others, are ripe for speculation.

They’ll kick the tires on most, run away from the price tag on some and decide against giving up the required draft pick on a few.

But make no mistake, in a deep free-agent class for bullpen arms, the Orioles will sign at least one free-agent reliever and probably more this offseason.

We’ve talked so much about corner infielders and a shortstop and an innings-eating starter, but bullpen help is a major priority.

There are two reasons for this: One, manager Buck Showalter is a big believer in deep bullpens, especially with a young rotation. He’s said multiple times that the importance of defense and strong relief cannot be overlooked.

Secondly, the Orioles’ bullpen is a work in progress right now. Koji Uehara and Mark Hendrickson are free agents, Matt Albers could be non-tendered and Jason Berken missed most of the second half due to injury.

Mike Gonzalez, David Hernandez, Jim Johnson, Jim Hoey, Luis Lebron, Troy Patton and Alfredo Simon all have experienced disabled list stints in the past two seasons and Rick VandenHurk is out of options next April.

The Orioles have signed Mitch Atkins and Josh Rupe to be part of the Triple-A Norfolk bullpen, but the organization has to get more arms there, too. The Tides’ seven leaders in appearances last season were Armando Gabino, Jim Miller, Dennis Sarfate, Alberto Castillo, Mike Hinckley, Kam Mickolio and Pat Egan.

Most are gone from the organization and only Mickolio is on the 40-man roster. Showalter would like a bevy of big-league-ready arms there, and that hasn’t happened yet -- and it may not since a lot of those types have already signed minor-league deals.

Many of the relievers who will get 40-man spots, however, are still out there for the taking -- at the right price.

And it would be a surprise if the Orioles didn’t jump heavily into that market.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (6)


I know the squirrel has been here and there over the past week or so. I do want to be serious here since you bring up the topic. Would the Orioles have any interest in trying to trade for Jonathan Broxton? He is someone I would consider trading David Hernández, not to get JJ Hardy in return. Maybe, they could throw in another player as well. It sure would add some excitement around here to add a big time reliever to the Oriole Bullpen. I know all about Broxton's issues, I seen it with my own eyes, the implosion in 2010, maybe a change in scenery and this new hot shot staff that Showalter has put together could do him some good!


A change in scenery trade certainly would be intriguing. But I doubt the Orioles would deal one reliever for another.

Did you seriously just say I would be a surprise if the Orioles didn't do something this winter?

Come on, Danno. The O's haven't made a significant move in how many winters? Why would they do so now?

Dan--From the group you mentioned, I like Balfour (a lot), Downs, and Ohman. I don't care for Gregg at all. I've seen him blow far too many games over the years.

Crain concerns me because his increasing appearences over the past two years after rotator cuff and labrum surgery suggest a bounce is coming.

For first and third, my hope is the Birds sign Pena and trade for Reynolds.

I'm not so sure that the bullpen is an area of 'major concern' especially compared to some of the other areas that this team needs to address. Berken, Hernandez, Gonzalez, and Johnson are a good foundation, although none of them are closer worth. Simon is worth another look, Albers needs to go, Koji needs to be resigned. Vandenhurk was alright, I view him as a long reliever at best and potentially a good trade chip. I feel like bullpen is the one position that the organization can feel more comfortable filling internally. That being said... there is absolutely no reason the Orioles shouldn't try and sign a reliever like Kevin Gregg to help bolster the pen. My point is, if the Orioles are going to focus their resources on one thing this off season, the infield is in need of a much larger overhaul than the bullpen.

Shouldn't be giving up picks.

How have they not learned that giving up picks is a bad idea? Our farm system is terrible.

Stick with the young core of arms. Get an innings-eater for the rotation. Buy or trade for a legit, young, middle of the order bat.

Please AP. No more multi-million dollar contracts to relievers. It is rarely worth it.

And for those of you who want us to sign Pena, here is a refresher of his stats:

-Will be 33 years old next season
-2008 AVG: .247
-2009 AVG: .227
-2010 AVG: .196

Terrible. Not worth the 28 HRs and 84 RBIs.

You don't sign players on a clear decline.

I do not know why, but I just feel that Pena would have a good year if he comes to Baltimore.

2011 AVG: 280

HRs - 35

RBIs - 95

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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