The 'pen is mightier

I feel as though I've written this before and it doesn't pan out, but the Orioles' bullpen, at least on paper, appears to be the real strength of this club.

We don't know which left-hander will be signed, but the backend of the 'pen is daunting.

Kevin Gregg's experience closing in the American League East is a huge benefit, and Koji Uehara is more than capable, as he proved over the second half of last season.

Jim Johnson says that his elbow is a non-issue. If it stays that way and he gets that heavy sink on his fastball, he can return to his dominant form of 2008. Michael Gonzalez looked a lot better once his shoulder was sound - his velocity certainly improved - and he could be a major weapon in matchup situations or for an entire inning.

I considered Jason Berken to be the Most Valuable Oriole in the first half, if such an award existed. He posted a 1.60 ERA in his first 27 appearances. He can be used in a variety of roles, including long relief, since the Orioles are well-stocked in one-inning guys.

Jeremy Accardo is the wild card here, a former closer with the Blue Jays who's been hurt and buried in the minors. He saved 30 games back in 2007.

Of course, we know how this optimism could capsize. Uehara brings the usual health risks. Johnson is pitching with a small tear in his elbow. Berken is pitching with a tear in his shoulder. Gonzalez was a mess in spring training, but he kept insisting that his shoulder was fine. We knew better.

If everyone stays healthy, the bullpen will be a definite plus. The rotation will benefit from it. Games will be shortened. More games should be won.

It never seems to work out that way, but maybe this year.

Shameless plug alert: I'm racing out the door to do "Wall to Wall Baseball" with Tom Davis, Phil Wood and Dave Johnson on MASN (11 a.m.-noon) and ESPN Radio 1300 (11 a.m.-2 p.m.) It will be the highlight of your sports day.

Oh, yeah, and the Ravens are playing later.

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