The bullpen blues

We have a night game in Clearwater, so my morning is free. And what better way to spend it than approving comments that have been sitting for 12 hours?

Sorry about that.

I raced back from Dunedin yesterday, went to the gym and met up with friends at Evie's on Bee Ridge Rd, where I watched more of my NCAA bracket crumble like the Orioles' pitching yesterday.

Way to step up, Georgetown.

Since I mentioned the Orioles' pitching, it's worth noting that Mark Hendrickson is the only one who didn't allow a run yesterday, though he surrendered two hits. Koji Uehara was charged with a run after leaving the game with a hamstring injury.

Collect your money if you had March 18 in your Koji Injury pool.

I had him upsetting Georgetown, so the day wasn't a total loss.

Mike Gonzalez's one-inning appearance today just became a little more important.

Gonzalez is pitching in a minor league game this afternoon, rather than making the trip to Clearwater tonight to face the Phillies. A cynic would suggest that the Orioles are hiding him. Anyone else would say he's taking the mound while the weather is warmer, which is better for his temperamental back.

That's the reasoning behind keeping Felix Pie out of the lineup until tomorrow. Just insert "shoulder" for "back."

I figured Uehara would be the likely replacement for Gonzalez if the Orioles needed someone else to close games because of an injury. Now we're in another holding pattern with Uehara, whose stamina and health have been issues since the Orioles opened the door to the Asian market.

I'm really glad they did, but I'm hoping the next player to step through it is a little more durable.

Uehara is a nice guy and really, really effective in short spurts. He could be a valuable member of the bullpen, someone who blows through an inning or two and passes a lead to the set-up man. Or someone who becomes the set-up man, or the closer if needed. He's been very good this spring.

Manager Dave Trembley has been using him one inning at a time while vowing to stretch him out as we near the opener. No wonder Trembley wasn't in a rush. Now Uehara is day-to-day instead of inning-to-inning, and part of my morning routine again will consist of checking with his interpreter, Jiwon Bang, to see whether he'll be updating us on an injury.

It seems like only a year ago.

The Orioles need Gonzalez to erase any exisiting concerns about his back today and on Sunday, when he's scheduled to throw another inning. An increase in velocity also would keep reporters from circling his locker. And Kam Mickolio needs to step up and claim the job that Trembley practically handed to him after camp opened. He hasn't been particularly sharp.

The bullpen wasn't supposed to be a major concern. And this team needs something to go right.


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