Wondering about the bullpen’s flexibility in 2016

One issue for the Orioles in 2015 involved a bullpen that didn’t provide enough flexibility. Too many relievers without minor league options. Too many instances where the club was challenged to bring up a fresh arm.

Tommy Hunter was shipped to the Cubs at the non-waiver deadline to free up a spot. It was a risky move for a team still in contention.

A fan suggested Saturday on “Wall to Wall Baseball” on MASN that the Orioles could solve the problem by having seven good relievers, eliminating the need to send down anyone over the course of the season. If only it were that simple.

This isn’t a realistic solution, of course. A starter is bound to get knocked out early and a reliever is bound to eat up enough innings that he’s not available for days, necessitating a roster move. And we know that manager Buck Showalter isn’t going to abuse his bullpen and risk injuries. He goes into some games with at least three relievers unavailable for their own good.

Mychal Givens Orioles.jpgIt’s too early to project a seven-man bullpen on opening day, but Mychal Givens figures to break camp with the team. That’s one optionable piece.

Left-hander T.J. McFarland could be the long man again, providing more flexibility. Showalter likes him backing up the right-handed starters. But will there be room for him?

Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Brian Matusz, Chaz Roe, Vance Worley and Steve Johnson are out of options. So is Dylan Bundy, who could be ticketed for the bullpen if he avoids the disabled list.

Imagine if the Orioles re-sign Darren O’Day - which is becoming harder to imagine as more big spenders make a play for him.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette wants to acquire at least one more reliever, further crowding the pitcher picture.

Roe is an interesting case. He was terrific in the first half, going 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA and 1.111 WHIP in 20 appearances and 27 innings. He was hurt and ineffective in the second half, going 2-1 with a 6.91 ERA and 2.163 WHIP in 16 appearances and 14 1/3 innings.

Opponents batted .160 against Roe in May, .204 in June, .320 in July, .571 in August and .385 in September. He went on the disabled list Aug. 10 with right shoulder tendinitis.

Roe was the pitching version of Jimmy Paredes, who also faded badly after a strong first half. However, Roe’s health issue created a possible excuse.

Roe remains on the 40-man roster and I’d expect him to get another look in spring training.

Mike Wright could be used as a reliever at some point after making his major league debut this year, but the Orioles haven’t given up on him as a starter and may want him in Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation if he isn’t part of their own.

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