Orioles bullpen about to undergo more changes

The Orioles might be able to complete their series against the Blue Jays tonight without creating another wave in their 25-man roster. It could be stagnant until their charter lands in Boston.

There’s going to be more movement with the Orioles carrying only one left-hander in their eight-man bullpen. A second southpaw needs to be inserted and manager Buck Showalter eventually wants to get back to a four-man bench.

Hunter Harvey and Yefry Ramirez would appear to be short-termers, the Orioles choosing them to fill the need for right-handed relief against the Blue Jays and because they were on the 40-man roster and available to pitch. It just took Ramirez an extra day after he threw 72 pitches on Friday while making his Triple-A debut.

If the Orioles option Harvey and Ramirez to Double-A Bowie and Norfolk, respectively, the bullpen would be down to Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, Mychal Givens, Miguel Castro, Richard Bleier and Rule 5 pick Pedro Araujo. The second left-hander would be an easy fit, but what happens after Alex Cobb is recalled on Saturday for his debut with the Orioles?

Moving Mike Wright Jr. to the ‘pen is much harder unless the Orioles are willing to option Givens or Castro. Wright would have to be exposed to waivers before they could send him down and his failure to get through the first inning Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium created shakier ground beneath his feet.

I’m still not convinced, despite some fans pleading for it, that the Orioles would release Chris Tillman in April after signing him to a contract that guarantees $3 million. He’s made two starts. It would be a ridiculously short leash.

Hart-Throws-White-Sidebar.jpgThe 40-man roster includes only one available left-hander in the minors, Donnie Hart, who tossed a scoreless inning last night with a strikeout. Tanner Scott can’t be recalled a couple days after being optioned unless he’s replacing an injured player. Chris Lee is recovering from an oblique injury.

Removing Nestor Cortes Jr. has left the Orioles with an open spot on the 40-man and the list of non-roster southpaw relievers at Triple-A Norfolk includes Joely Rodriguez and Josh Edgin, who earned the chance to break camp with the team but were caught in a numbers crunch. Andrew Faulkner also could be a consideration as a matchup lefty.

Edgin earned the win last night for the Tides while striking out four batters in 2 1/3 scoreless innings. He hasn’t allowed a run in 3 1/3 innings in his two appearances.

The Double-A Bowie pitching staff includes left-hander Luis Gonzalez, an organizational favorite with projections that he could help the club later in the summer. The Orioles debated whether to protect him in the Rule 5 draft after he posted a 2.47 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 36 relief appearances at Single-A Frederick and held opponents to a .173 average.

Keeping Cortes and Araujo for the entire season was a longshot and the latter figured to be the last man standing. He had the better spring and didn’t need to be so precise with his pitches. Cortes is the ultimate finesse guy, with lots of arm slots but not much in the way of velocity. He was on the bubble as the Orioles set their opening day roster - I doubt that including him was a unanimous decision - but he certainly was worth a longer look.

The guy has won at every level and he certainly did impress at minicamp. But the further we got into spring training, the more vulnerable he seemed to become. It’s no crime to be a 23-year-old Rule 5 pick with limited experience above Double-A who isn’t ready for the majors.

You can’t hide them. Araujo was called upon in the seventh inning of a tie game in Houston, gave up the go-ahead run and watched his ERA really inflate when Cortes replaced him and served up a grand slam to Josh Reddick. Showalter went back to Cortes on Monday night with the bases loaded in the ninth, the Orioles down by one run and Curtis Granderson at the plate. The lefty versus lefty matchup that backfired when Granderson walked.

Josh Donaldson followed with a grand slam, which a few observers in the press box predicted, and Cortes’ time in the majors had run out.

Can’t hide them. Especially with a batch of relievers still unavailable after the Yankees series and Cortes the only left-hander who could be used in that situation.

It made sense on the surface to keep Cortes as the lefty long man backing up five right-handed starters, but the game isn’t played on paper. Otherwise, every rain delay would be a disaster.

O’Day, the veteran leader in the bullpen and a former Rule 5 pick, intended to speak with Cortes yesterday. Check on the kid and make certain that the confidence tank wasn’t on empty. But Cortes was called into Showalter’s office and the latest roster move was official.

“There’s mistakes I’ve made along the way that I can help him avoid,” O’Day said earlier in the day. “I talk to a lot of young guys about them, some of the stuff, but what it comes down to is going out there and doing it for yourself. He’s been thrown into some tough situations, but that’s part of being a reliever. It’s kind of the definition of relief pitching.

“He’s a good kid, he’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s picked up the bullpen pretty quickly. That’s something people forget, too. He has very little experience out of the bullpen, so he probably hasn’t inherited too many runners in his life. It’s a different experience when you’re out there and somebody else’s runners are on.”

There’s also the daily arrivals at the ballpark with little to no sense of whether he’s going to pitch. It becomes a mind game before the actual one. And it didn’t play out in the Grapefruit League, where pretty much everything is mapped out.

“It’s hard to be ready every day. It really is,” said O’Day, who surrendered Granderson’s home run last night in the ninth inning to break a 1-1 tie. “Spring training’s a great time to be a relief pitcher because you know when you’re going to pitch. And on the other days you can kind of just check out and watch your buddies play. But in season, you just never know what the game is going to be, unless you’re Richard Bleier and you throw six innings in three days. Then you get a day off.

“That’s different, and then preparing yourself, he could throw anywhere from the third inning to the ninth, as he has been, so it’s tough. It’s a lot to ask of him. But they’re confident he can do it. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have brought him.”

They kept him for 11 games. Circumstances wouldn’t allow for any more.

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