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Birds’ Bullpen is a Mess

August 16, 2006 | By RotoRob | comment on this post

Baltimore began 2006 with such optimism. The club had a solid looking offense and the addition of pitching coach Leo Mazzone — considered the key genius behind all those great Braves’ pitching staffs over the years — was supposed to help whip the pitching into shape.

It hasn’t happened.

Last night was a perfect microcosm for the season. Starter Erik Bedard, one of the only bright spots on Baltimore staff this year, entrusted a 3-1 lead to the pen. He had just shut down a tough Yankee squad for six innings, holding them to five hits and a run and pitching out of a bases-loaded, nobody out situation in his final inning.

LaTroy Hawkins preceded to allow New York to tie the game within six pitches and give up the lead after just 15. In only two-thirds of an inning, he was shelled for three runs. Chris Britton wasn’t much better, surrendering a pair of runs in the eighth inning. All told, the bullpen coughed up five runs in just two innings.

Now had this incident been a rarity, we might be talking about Baltimore and its chances at the wild card. But this type of performance has been all too common in Charm City, as evidenced by a bullpen that has the worst ERA in the majors.

Disturbingly, the Oriole starters have been even worse.

But the fact is, no major league team can have success without a reliable bullpen.

Chris Ray is no B.J. Ryan, but he’s been very effective in his first season as the closer. Britton looked good most of the year, but is absolutely struggling right now. He’s given up eight hits and seven runs over 2.2 IP in his past four appearances, so one wonders if something is wrong with him. Sendy Rleal has been effectively wild so far, but all those walks must catch up to him sometime.

As for Hawkins, he’s rumoured to be headed to the Red Sox, a deal that you have to think might have been engineered by Brian Cashman to sabotage Boston.

But check out some of the other relievers that Baltimore is trotting out there:

  • Tim Byrdak was recently activated from the 60-day DL, but hasn’t exactly helped. He’s given up nine hits and seven walks in 5.2 IP.
  • Bruce Chen was shifted to the pen where he’s been better, but that’s not saying much.
  • Russ Ortiz also lost his starting gig and is now a long reliever. And as disturbing as it sounds, he’s been among the Orioles’ more effective relievers. But that won’t last. You can stick a fork in Ortiz — he is seriously done.

I like how Baltimore has started tying up its younger offensive stars to long-term deals, but until the pitching shows signs of life, this club is destined to toil in the second tier among AL East combatants.

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