A sense of relief

Many thanks to “Bumblebee” in Japan for passing along the YouTube video of Koji Uehara that ran last week.

You’ll need a translator, but it’s proof that he’s still alive (and playing catch).

According to Bumblebee, Uehara tells his interviewer - a former player with the Yomiuri Giants - that he’s planning to throw more cutters and changeups this season.

As long as we’re talking about the staff, pitching coach Rick Kranitz is a firm believer in letting young starters gain experience in the bullpen, something the Orioles used to do.

It’s possible that David Hernandez or Jason Berken will be moved to the ‘pen if they don’t make the rotation on Opening Day. The other option, of course, is to keep them on an every-fifth-day schedule at Triple-A Norfolk.

“I’ve been a believer in putting young guys in the bullpen anyway,” Kranitz said. “Our situation hasn’t been like that. We’ve had to put guys right in the starting rotation. It’s not easy to go out there on a day in and day out basis in our division and have to get 18 to 20 outs. It’s much easier for guys to come out of the bullpen and get their feet wet and be able to get two or three outs, or six outs, and build on that.

“That’s what we did when I was in Florida. Josh Johnson started in the bullpen and he had about a month and a half, and so did Ricky Nolasco. I think they learned a lot, and when they eventually got in the rotation, they were very comfortable, they had confidence and then they moved forward.

“I could see either one of those guys (Hernandez or Berken) being a bullpen guy. Hernandez has a big arm. His struggles came when he didn’t get his off-speed stuff over the plate consistently. Berken was the other way. He doesn’t have as good of stuff, but he throws a few more complementary pitches that he can throw over the plate, which is good when you’re looking one time through the lineup. His struggles usually came the second or third time around.”

Not every young starter is a candidate for relief duty.

“I think the exception is (Brian) Matusz,” Kranitz said. “He’s a different breed, I think. He’s left-handed, he has four quality pitches, he throws strikes, and he’s a tough kid. I think you can put him right into that rotation and let him go. But I don’t think it would have hurt him at all, or any young kid, to come out of the bullpen.”

Have you noticed that Hernandez and Berken are always discussed in tandem? You can’t mention one without the other. It’s like they’re joined at the hip.

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