A take on how the bullpen could look for the opener

It’s still very early in spring training but never too early to take a shot at guesses – and that is what they truly are, guesses – at the makeup of the Opening Day roster.

Today I will take a shot at projecting an eight-man bullpen that would work behind a starting group of five pitching in some order to include Corbin Burnes, Grayson Rodriguez, Dean Kremer, Cole Irvin and Tyler Wells beginning March 28.

At the back-end closing games is righty Craig Kimbrel, who will have that job for the opener barring a big surprise or an injury issue.

The Orioles, minus Félix Bautista for this season after his surgery, will be turning over the job to a very experienced pitcher who is a nine-time All Star that ranks eighth all-time with 417 saves.

He led the NL in saves four straight years from 2011-2014 and has 11 seasons of 20 or more saves.

Despite his struggle in the NL Championship Series last October, batters hit just .181 with a .611 OPS off Kimbrel last year when he had a K percentage of 33.8, among the best in baseball. The stuff and the stats are still mostly there.

From the left side, I think Danny Coulombe and Cionel Pérez are about locks to make it. Coulombe, acquired by the O’s last March 27 from the Twins, showed a player added for cash considerations as he was, can make a big impact. He did. Perez had a better second-half last year and he’s in this ‘pen from the left side barring a surprise.

But I will put the local kid, Bruce Zimmermann in the ‘pen as a third southpaw on Opening Day and that would be a bit of a surprise. He’s healthy after his winter core muscle surgery and I think he could be valuable pitching in various roles. They include long relief which could be more important early in the year as starters complete their spring build-ups and continue to get stretched out.

This ‘pen makeup with three lefties would also leave the club with some nice left-handed depth at Triple-A where pitchers like Keegan Akin, Nick Vespi and Matt Krook could be optioned. Tucker Davidson is out of options but maybe he finds his way to the Baltimore farm too.

That makes four in the bullpen, and I will add four right-handers to that, and they are Yennier Cano, Dillon Tate, Mike Baumann and Bryan Baker.

That last spot, which I gave to Baker today, could go also to Jacob Webb, who is out of options while Baker has one left. Baumann is also out of options.

Tate, fingers crossed, who is healthy now and hopefully staying that way, could be a big boost to this bullpen. Tate, the last player in the organization remaining from the Zack Britton trade to the Yankees in 2018, had a 3.05 ERA in 73 2/3 innings in the 2022 season. Another year like that could be a difference-maker for the 2024 bullpen. Baker has stuff that has always been impressive and has thrown in 112 games the last two years.

Some of the right-handers in camp are minor league starting pitchers and are likely real longshots to break north in the O’s ‘pen and include Justin Armbruester, Chayce McDermott, Seth Johnson and Garrett Stallings.

And Wandisson Charles, with his big fastball, does have a chance to make it as do recent adds Kaleb Ort and Jonathan Heasley. All three pitchers also have an option remaining.

Any pitcher with options has value in that the pitcher could ride the Norfolk-Baltimore shuttle if needed this year and make their way one time or several times to the big league bullpen.

However the O’s choose to start in their bullpen may not be how they finish. They’ll start with 13 pitchers when they host the Angels for the opener but use so many more throughout the long year.

What is your bullpen makeup right now?

Another Grapefruit League win: The Orioles beat Detroit 5-2 Tuesday to improve to 4-1. They have allowed just six total runs in their four wins.

James McCann had a two-run double, and Coby Mayo ripped an RBI double to left field, going 1-for-2 with a walk. Jackson Holliday singled in the fifth inning and is 1-for-7 thus far.

The Orioles five pitchers used as starters to date  – Burnes, Irvin, Johnson, Cade Povich and Rodriguez – have allowed one run over nine combined innings.

* Mayo is 4-for-6 with two doubles, three walks and an .800 OBP.

* Jordan Westburg is 3-for-6 with a triple and homer.

* Daniel Johnson is 4-for-9 with a double, triple and homer.

* Tyler Nevin is 4-for-9 with a homer.




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