Figuring out the Orioles’ bullpen in 2014 has been complicated by the apparent decision to make Tommy Hunter the closer and left-hander Troy Patton’s 25-game suspension.
Removing Hunter from a set-up role creates room for another reliever. Losing Patton creates room for another left-hander. And there are a variety of candidates for the long-relief spot that belonged last year to Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland.
McFarland could return to that role. He could replace Patton for the first 25 games. He could start at Triple-A Norfolk.
That’s what I’m talking about.
I recently placed Alfredo Aceves on my projected 25-man roster, lumping him with Darren O’Day and Ryan Webb as right-handed set-up types. Of course, Aceves has starter experience and will work out as one in spring training, so he could be more of a swingman.
That’s what I’m talking about.
I haven’t included Brad Brach, who’s on the 40-man roster after the Orioles acquired him from the Padres on Nov. 25 for minor league pitcher Devin Jones. Brach posted a 3.19 ERA in 33 games last season, but he’s got one option remaining, which could work against him.
Brach, 27, showed up at last week’s mini-camp in Sarasota. He wore No. 35, if you’re keeping track.
Being an East Coast guy - born in Freehold, N.J., and a 42nd-round pick out of Monmouth University - Brach was happy to find out that the Orioles traded for him.
“I was excited to get back to being closer to family and friends,” he said. “Having them at games always makes it more exciting and more enjoyable. Definitely.
“I had a little bit of an idea that something might happen, but you just still never know until it actually happens. My agent made a few calls and he said some teams were interested, but he obviously wasn’t going to give me a definite yes or no on whether it was going to happen.”
Why would the Padres trade a reliever who also posted a 3.78 ERA in 67 games in 2012? He’s averaged 5.1 walks in nine innings during his three major league seasons. Or maybe there were other motives.
“I don’t know,” he said. “They have some younger relievers and there are a lot of guys there, a lot of young righty relievers. I guess they just wanted to go in a different direction and I was fine with that. As long as I was coming here, it was a good thing.”
Brach averages 1.8 walks per nine innings over six minor league seasons. Now, he needs to exhibit similar control in the majors.
“I have to cut my walks down,” he said. “In the minors, I had no problem throwing strikes, but the last two years I’ve struggled to throw strikes for one reason or another. I think as long as I stay aggressive and throw strikes, I should be all right.
“There are a lot of younger guys here, and I think having parts of three seasons and now having that experience could definitely help me. I’m ready to help the team any way I can, hopefully one way or another. Being in Baltimore at some point during the season if not the whole year. I think it’s definitely a good opportunity.”
Brach won’t be a total stranger in camp. He’s met infielder Ryan Flaherty a few times while working out at Vanderbilt University.
Why Vanderbilt? Here’s where Brach’s story gets a little more interesting.
He’s married to Jenae Cherry, who sings and plays guitar in a band that performs country and rock tunes, and the couple lives in Nashville. Brach often can be found carrying her pink guitar case before and after shows.
Brach was in Nashville with Triple-A Tucson in August 2011 when he attended one of Cherry’s performances with a friend and worked up the nerve to ask her out on a lunch date. A bases-loaded jam couldn’t have brought more nerves.
“Somehow, someway, I did it,” he said. “From there, it was a lot of texting and a lot of long distance.”
They’ve been together ever since, exchanging vows on Nov. 30, 2013.
“That’s how we chose Nashville,” he said.
Brach wasn’t a fan of country music until meeting Cherry.
“I started listening to it more,” he said. “I don’t mind it. It’s not my favorite, but I don’t mind it.”
Brach wouldn’t mind jogging down the orange carpet on opening day at Camden Yards. There will be plenty of other opportunities to haul around the pink guitar case.