Orioles: Jamie Walker needs solid spring
Don't assume that the Orioles will keep Jamie Walker on the 25-man Opening Day roster just because he's guaranteed $4.5 million in the final year of his contract. If the club could dump the remainder of the Jay Gibbons contract, you can bet Andy MacPhail will have no problem going younger if Walker (right) struggles through the exhibition season.
I don't think that's going to happen. Walker is a wily lefty who, at 37, is not particularly old for a left-handed situational guy, but his arm clearly wasn't sound last year and that was reflected in his horrible hits-to-innings ratio and his 6.87 ERA. He would be the first to admit that 2008 was the worst season of his major league career, but if he's healthy this spring, he'll get left-handed hitters out and make the team.
What if he doesn't? Then the Orioles have to find somebody to take his place on a roster that doesn't have a lot of options. Depending on the way Dave Trembley handles the closer role, George Sherrill could be called in for key lefty-lefty matchups, but I'm guessing he ends up being the predominant closer. It's also possible that Jim Johnson will be overpowering enough in a setup role that Trembley won't have to go left-left that often.
There is another name you might start to hear in late February. Minor league left-hander Wilfrido Perez has had more strikeouts than innings pitched in each of his four professional seasons and impressed the Orioles' player development types with the way he jumped up to Double-A Bowie last year and didn't miss a beat (2.31 ERA, 1.03 WHIP).
Associated Press photo