Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bullpen Update

Seattle's spring roster is now 13 players lighter after Wednesday and Thursday's cuts, making this a good time to reaccess some position battles (all stats current as of 3/16 and for Cactus League games only).

Bullpen: Five pitchers; Horacio Ramirez, Joe Woerman, Phillipe Aumont, Brodie Downs and Stephen Kahn; have been dismissed from big league camp as Seattle begins to tighten things up. Of these five, Ramirez and Downs were the only ones with any chance of making the club, in my mind, so those two cuts are the only one that really effect the way the 'pen will take shape.

Ramirez is now searching for a new team, making the long reliever battle a two-man race. R.A. Dickey and Cha Seung Baek have both been impressive thus far, and both pitched in Wednesday's ballgame. Baek pitched one scoreless inning, giving up one hit and striking out one, lowering his spring ERA to 1.29. Dickey followed with two innings of work, giving up one run on two hits. His ERA sits at 2.00 after giving up an RBI double to Ray Durham.

This one can still go either way, and will go down to the wire since the loser will likely be pitching for another organization. Could the fact that Baek pitched just one inning today hint that Seattle may be testing him as a middle reliever? I doubt it and I don't endorse the idea, but Seattle could be forced into that if the rest of the bullpen doesn't shape up the way they want it to.

The rest of the bullpen is up in the air at this point, and a lot will be determined by the health of the four reclamation projects. Mark Lowe, Chris Reitsma, Arthur Rhodes and Jon Huber all have the talent to be on the Opening Day bullpen, but it is unclear when they'll be ready. All have shown some good stuff at times.

"Oh, I'm ready to go right now," Rhodes told reporters after his latest appearance. "By the end of spring training, I want to be on this team."

It's still too early to tell what will happen. I think we'll have a better idea of what might happen after their next appearances in a couple days. All have looked pretty good so far.

As far as the rest of the bullpen goes:

Ryan Rowland-Smith has yet to give up a run in 8.2 innings, but his five walks are a little disconcerting. The consensus on RRS is that he'll start the year in AAA as a starter, but if he continues to put up zeros and finds his control the team will have no choice but to consider carrying him as a middle or long reliever. If injuries temporarily limit Seattle's bullpen depth, there is no reason not to carry RRS for the first month or so.

Brandon Morrow has already been dubbed one of Seattle's late-innings guys, so it'll take a disastrous spring to land him in the minor leagues. He has been pretty decent so far, with the exception of his last appearance. If you take away his hellish outing against the White Sox on March 10th (0 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 4 ER), he has an ERA of 2.25 over 4 innings of work. That bad outing can be attributed to a sore shoulder Morrow has been pitching with lately; a full recovery is expected.

Eric O'Flaherty has been great: 4.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 4 K, 0 BB. He should be the frontrunner for the left-handed specialist opening, but could get setup consideration depending on bullpen health and depth.

Sean Green had been okay, sporting a 2.70 ERA over his first 3.1 innings, though the WHIP wasn't looking so great. Green pitched horribly in his last outing, allowing 6 runs in a third of an inning, skyrocketing his ERA to 17.18. We'll see how he rebounds, but I expect him to be on the Opening Day roster considering the stability he brought to the club last season.

Cesar Jimenez has been fantastic so far this spring, a single bad outing inflating his ERA to 6.75. In his other three outings he's given up just one hit and no walks. Jimenez is trying to make the team as a left-handed specialist or middle reliever. I would prefer to see O'Flaherty as the team's LOOGY, but McLaren seems to like what he sees in Jimenez. Jeff from Lookout Landing does a great job in this post discussing why O'Flaherty is the better option.

Philip Barzilla is putting up some very nice numbers. The non-roster invitee has yet to give up a run in three innings of work. His 5:0 K:BB ratio is what will get him noticed. We'll see if he can keep it up. He'll likely be competing for a middle relief role.

If none of the aforementioned "reclamation projects" can go on Opening Day, Seattle may have to go with a bullpen like this:

Long: R.A. Dickey, R
Mid: Cesar Jimenez, L
Mid: Cha Seung Baek, R*
LOOGY: Eric O'Flaherty, L
Setup: Brandon Morrow, R
Setup: Sean Green, R
Closer: J.J. Putz, R

*Baek's inclusion would depend on how many pitchers Seattle decides to carry. I think Seattle could get away with having just six pitchers in this 'pen, as Dickey, Jimenez, Morrow and Green are all capable of pitching more than one inning. I doubt that Seattle will have to go with this bullpen, as at least one or two of Lowe, Huber, Reitsma and Rhodes should be available.


Anonymous said...

Baek should make the team he can easily replace what Julio Mateo used to do back in the day

Rob T. said...

Churchill has some scouting report updates. It's nice to see Sexson looking good but it sucks to see Lopez looking terrible.

Greyguy said...

I have a slight concern about Dickey, in that there seems to be come belief that Burke needs to be the one who catches him. I'm not sure if it works for a reliever to have a dedicated catcher.

Anonymous said...

Grey: That was my biggest concern too, but Kenji has been catching him for the majority of the spring, as far as I can tell. They won't put Dickey on the team if he can't be handled.