2011 Baltimore Orioles Preview: Bullpen

A few days ago in my preview of the starting rotation, I predicted that the starters would be the weak link on the team and gave them a D+ grade.

I am not quite ready to declare the bullpen as the strength of the team, but I do think this is where we saw the most improvement in the last two months under Buck Showalter, and we have added key guys.  Let’s jump into the analysis of the O’s 2011 bullpen.

First off, what the Orioles have listed on their web site is certainly going to change.  Alfredo Simon is still sitting in prison down in the Dominican Republic, and he’ll be placed on the inactive list on February 26.  I believe, at this point, Mark Hendrickson will be added to the big league roster to replace him.  There are approximately six sure-things in the bullpen, the rest should be up for grabs in the spring.  I want to focus on the back end – innings 7, 8 and 9.

The Orioles added serious depth to the ‘pen in the offseason by signing Jeremy Accardo and Kevin Gregg, both formerly of the Blue Jays.  Gregg will have a chance to be the primary closer.

That means Koji Uehara, who was the closer – and did a respecatble job – at the end of last season, will be the set up man (one of them).  Mike Gonzalez is going to be in that late-inning shutdown mix as well.  If they can stay healthy, these three guys are going to be key to the Orioles success.  I think this is a strength of the roster, on paper.

After that, pencil in Jim Johnson, Accardo, Jason Berken, and Troy Patton.  I think Rick Vandenhurk will also make the team.  There are some minor league invites to camp that will compete for around four or five spots with the group we have here.

Competition and depth can make a team better, especially with improved coaching and higher expectations.

Overall, this is an improved area of the team and is going to be exciting to have the bullpen come in and shut down the opponents.

Grade: B-

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