The Orioles knew that they had to re-build the bullpen in front of closer Chris Ray for the 2007 season and they got their wallet out. They have signed Danys Baez, Chad Bradford, Jamie Walker and Scott Williamson to fortify one of their weaknesses from the 2006 season. The closer will be 25 year old righty Chris Ray. Ray was 4-4 with 33 saves, a 2.73 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in 61 games in 2006. Ray has nasty stuff as batters only hit .193 against him last season and he whiffed 51 batters in 66 innings. Ray has two weaknesses that he needs to work on to be completely dominant. He allowed lefthanded batters to whack 8 homers in only 114 at bats against him and he walked 27 batters in 66 innings. Look for Ray to improve in those areas as he will save 35-40 games with an ERA in the low 2’s in 2007.
29 year old righty Danys Baez was signed on to pitch the 8th inning for the Orioles this season and to provide insurance in case Ray has an off-season or gets injured. Baez had an off-season last year as he was 5-6 with a 4.53 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, had 12 holds and 9 saves for the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers. Look for Baez to improve as he returns to the American League which is where he pitched in the first five seasons of his career and he had more success there. Look for Baez to do a good job setting up for the Orioles in 2007.
32 year old side-winding righty Chad Bradford has been signed out by the Orioles to help bridge the gap from the starting pitcher to Baez and Ray. He was 4-2 with 10 holds, a 2.90 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in 70 games for the New York Mets last year. Batters hit .254 against Bradford last season but he throws strikes (only 13 walks) and keeps the ball down (only allowed 1 homer) in 62 innings last year. Bradford will do a good job for the O’s in 2007.
35 year old lefty Jamie Walker was signed on to be the lefty specialist in the O’s bullpen and he’s a good pitcher. He was 0-1 with 11 holds and a 2.81 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in 2006 for the defending American League Champion Detroit Tigers. Walker is another pitcher on the Orioles with great control as he only walked 8 batters in 48 innings last season. Look for Walker to do a good job for the Orioles as he held lefty batters to a .235 batting average last season.
31 year old righty Scott Williamson was a good gamble for the Orioles to take. Williamson has been very good when he’s been healthy over his career, but that hasn’t been often. Over his 8 year career, Williamson has a 3.32 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 26 holds and 55 saves in 328 games. Williamson has also held hitters to a .206 batting average of his career and he’s whiffed 494 batters in 425 career innings. Still, Williamson had a rough season in San Diego last year as he was 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA and a 1.82 WHIP in 11 games. It all depends on Williamson’s health, if he stays healthy he’ll be good…if not the Orioles will just get rid of him.
35 year old righty Todd Williams has been brought back for the Orioles. He was 2-4 with a 4.74 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP in 2006. He had 13 holds and a save in 62 games but he allowed batters to hit an amazing .323 against him last season. Williams will need to rebound to the level he pitched at in 2004-2005 if he wants to make the Orioles final roster.
26 year old righty Kurt Birkins was 5-2 with 4 holds in 35 games in 2006 for the Orioles. Batters only hit .221 against Birkins last season but he still had a 4.94 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. Birkins will likely start the season in AAA ball, but he will get a call from the Orioles at some point in the season.
26 year old righty Sendy Rleal was 1-1 with a 4.44 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP in 42 games for the Orioles last season. He allowed a .274 batting average against him and he allowed an alarming 10 homers and 23 walks in only 46.2 innings. Look for Rleal to start the year in the minors and to only get a call if he improves on his areas of weakness.
33 year old righty Julio Manon pitched in 22 games for the Orioles last season and he was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.95 WHIP. Manon gave up a whopping 5 homers and 16 walks in only 20 innings. Look for him to start the season in the minors if the Orioles believe he’s good enough to keep around.
29 year old lefty John Parrish missed all of last season for the Orioles due to injury and that’s a shame because he has a big-time arm. He has pitched in 108 games in his career for the Orioles and he is 10-10 with a 4.31 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP. His main problem has been walks in his career as he has allowed 132 of them in 177.1 innings! He does have an electric arm as evidenced by his 159 whiffs! He will make the team if healthy, but that’s a big if.
24 year old righty James Hoey had a rough first taste of the major leagues. He was 0-1 with a 10.24 ERA and a 1.97 WHIP in 12 games in 2006. Batters were running up to the plate to swing against Hoey as they hit .359 against him in the majors. The Orioles rushed Hoey as he skipped AAA ball as he was 2-1 with 33 saves and a 2.28 ERA at three levels of the low minors. Look for Hoey to start the season in AAA and get a call to the majors if he deserves one.
Soon to be 26 year old Brian Burres was a starter his whole career in the minors, but the Orioles used him as a lefty specialist when they called him up last season. He has 4 holds and had a 2.25 ERA with a 0.88 WHIP in 11 games for the Orioles last season. Lefty hitters only went 1 of 14 against him last season (.071 batting average). Look for him to have a good chance to make the Orioles if he has a good Spring.
Jeremy Guthrie and Paul Shuey could each make the team too. Shuey hasn’t pitched in a while due to a hip injury, but if he’s healthy he would do a good job for the Orioles. Guthrie was caught in a numbers game in Cleveland as he has a good arm and will have a good chance to stick with the Orioles this season.
The Orioles have done a great job rebuilding their bullpen and no one is happier than the starting rotation of the Orioles, because they won’t have to be perfect to win any more.