Something special about the left-handers

Orioles manager Buck Showalter isn't a big fan of the expanded roster, feeling as though it drastically - and unfairly - changes games and strategies in the late innings. You play under the same rules for five months and then switch in September.

However, he took full advantage of his extra bullpen options yesterday, using six relievers and playing matchups in the late innings. He kept Troy Patton in the game to face a left-handed hitter, brought in Willie Eyre to face a right-hander, and summoned Clay Rapada to face a left-hander.

Everyone did the job except for the last pitcher used, closer Kevin Gregg, who let four straight batters reach with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in a gruesome 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays.

Left-hander Zach Phillips was the first reliever to take the baton, and he gave the Orioles 1 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out left-handed hitting Kelly Johnson with a nasty breaking ball and got a called third strike on another left-hander, Adam Lind.

Phillips hasn't allowed a run in five appearances covering four innings since the Orioles recalled him from Triple-A Norfolk. He's given up three hits, walked two and struck out six - all of them left-handed batters.

Phillips could project as a lefty specialist next season, except he's capable of going multiple innings. Clay Rapada more accurately fits that description, and maybe there's room for both of them in the bullpen next season.

We're dealing with small sample sizes this month, but they'll be in the discussion.

Rapada retired both batters he faced yesterday, retiring Lind on a soft liner and striking out David Cooper. Left-handers are batting .098 against him, right-handers .692. That's a specialist.

Contenders can afford to carry someone like Rapada - or at least teams with starters who don't leave games early every night.

He's perfectly fine for everyone on an expanded September roster.

Stay tuned for the lineup. And for my usual Sunday segment on O's Xtra, which begins at 12:30 p.m. on MASN2/MASN2 HD.

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