Inbox: Orioles showing need for true long man
Beat reporter Brittany Ghiroli answers fans' questions
Can the O's really get by without a long reliever in the bullpen?
-- David W., Washington
No. While this was a potential problem coming out of Spring Training, I think the first few games have shown just how important it is to have a bullpen with some kind of middle relief capable of picking up multiple innings.
It's no coincidence that the Orioles won their first three games when the starters went at least seven innings, and struggled after a pair of shorter starts from Brian Matusz and Wei-Yin Chen. It would've been much easier to cover those innings and not use nearly as many arms if the O's had an actual long reliever. Instead, manager Buck Showalter had to use several one-inning relievers to get by Monday and Tuesday (which went to extra innings), and by the time Wednesday rolled around, the 'pen was in dire straits.
How dire? Starter Jason Hammel was held out on his work day in case of emergency use, and Kevin Gregg had to go two innings, throwing 38 pitches, because Matt Lindstrom's back tightened up, leaving Showalter with one less option.
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The bottom line is the Orioles need a long man, not just because they lack a veteran rotation -- although that's reason enough -- but also because you can't account for an injury-shortened start or days when a guy can't get through the second inning.
So who could fill that role? The O's are stretching out reliever Jason Berken to start, and the recent signing of Joel Pineiro to a Minor League deal will provide another option. The organization would still prefer to have Tsuyoshi Wada, who is on the disabled list, as a starting candidate, but I wouldn't rule him out either. There are a few options, and I think you'll see a long reliever in some form up here very shortly.
Anything to Adam Jones' three stolen bases? He's fast, but he hasn't stolen very many bases prior to this year. Does he have a chance at 20-plus stolen bases?
-- Rudy G.
Jones, like several of his teammates, is getting some good coaching from veteran Brian Roberts. While Roberts is on the DL, he is with the team and has been helping the Orioles by sharing some of his secrets. One of the more impressive steals by Jones this season was in the Twins series, when Jones and Nick Johnson pulled off a double steal with reliever Matt Maloney on the hill to set the table for Wilson Betemit's two-run double.
It's a huge boost to have a guy with Jones' skill set able to steal bases, and it's something I think you're going to see a lot more of this year.
Is 20 steals out of the question? I don't think so. He had 12 last season, and Jones is young enough that he's still coming into his own in a lot of facets of the game. I'd like to see a few guys be aggressive in taking bases this year, with Robert Andino and Nolan Reimold being two of them.
I know it's early, but what was most encouraging to you about the first week of play?
-- Dan P., Columbia, Md.
The starters. I know, I just went on earlier about the need for a long man, but that's a necessity on really every Major League club.
I have been impressed with Jake Arrieta in his first two starts -- especially in coming off right elbow surgery -- as well as Tommy Hunter and Hammel. I expect Chen to build off a pretty solid 5 2/3 innings against the Yankees and continue to go from there; I was impressed with how the 26-year-old held it together in his Major League Baseball debut.
Even Matusz, who statistically was the least impressive of the bunch, still has to be in the positive column for me because of where he is stuff-wise compared to last year. Matusz has gained back velocity and his stuff, according to catcher Matt Wieters, and is like night and day from 2011. If he can locate the ball this weekend against Toronto, it'll be interesting to see how he fares.
The fact that Wada and Zach Britton are both rehabbing in extended spring camp should be an interesting competition to watch unfold later in the season. If the Orioles can pitch, they can stay in the game and compete, which is primarily what they did the first six games. Whether or not it can continue will determine their season.
When Dan Duquette talked on TV during Wednesday's game, he didn't seem opposed to accelerating Dylan Bundy through the Minor Leagues, and with his incredible start at Delmarva, is it possible we'll be seeing him in an Orioles uniform by late next year?
-- Julian Z., White Marsh, Md.
When I first read this, I thought you meant the end of this year and was prepared to -- again -- explain why the 19-year-old Bundy isn't coming to Baltimore in 2012. But 2013 is a different story. I don't think it's out of the question, if Bundy continues to dominate in the Minor Leagues, to think he could be with the O's at some point. Whether that's as a September callup or not, I don't know. Judging from his dominance in two pro starts, he clearly doesn't belong at Class A Delmarva, and I don't think it'll be long before he's off to Class A Advanced and eventually Double-A Bowie.
As a member of the 40-man roster, Bundy will be in big league camp again next spring, and it will get harder and harder for Baltimore to justify keeping him down below if he continues to progress as planned. He does have a lot to learn in making adjustments from the high school level to the pros, but if Bundy uses his time wisely this year, it could be a very tough call for the Orioles' brass, perhaps as early as 2013.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.