There's no more Luis Ayala to kick around any more. Rumored to be on the trade market towards the end of spring training, he made it to Opening Day, but now he's been traded to the Atlanta Braves for LHP Chris Jones, a seven-year minor league veteran who was most recently pitching in relief in AA.
All of which is to say that Ayala wasn't worth much to the Orioles or anyone else, even with a low-cost contract for the remainder of the season. It was a good idea to pick up the option when the O's did, because there was no way to know then that the bullpen would be as crowded as it is - perhaps optimistically, the Orioles did not just want to assume Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter would be back in the bullpen. They are back in the bullpen, though, and there is a short bench, and Matusz is the only person who has an option available. That means trade or release is the only other way to clear room - so Ayala has been traded.
This makes a spot on the 25-man and 40-man roster for outfielder Chris Dickerson, who was reported to have been lifted in the first inning of yesterday's Norfolk Tides game in order to join the team in Boston.
It's practically in the baseball fan contract that there must be one reliever to kick around at all times. Given his penchant for letting inherited runners score, and escaping damage to his own ERA by the skin of his teeth, Ayala was who I was zeroing in on for that role. Now, we'll have to find someone else to kick around, though ideally the remaining relievers will all be awesome and there will be no need to kick anyone around. You and I both know that's not the way these things work, though.
I am casting about to try to find something about Ayala to miss. He was a part of last year's special team, after all. He caught home runs into the Camden Yards bullpen area like a champion. That's about it. A good ERA was kind of ruined by his inherited runner shenanigans, and he led the bullpen in losses. There was a surplus of right-handed relievers and a need to clear a roster spot and Dan Duquette deemed that he was the most expendable. Now he's on his way to Atlanta - or perhaps Miami, which is where the Braves are playing tonight.
Jones is a 24-year-old AA reliever. He has been assigned to Bowie. He had a 3.90 ERA in 45 appearances for AA Mississippi in the Braves organization last season. Don't get excited for him. If your job dictates that you have to get excited for Jones, you might say something about how Jones held lefty hitters to a .145 average in high-A in 2011 and to a .244 average in AA last year. Probably the best that can be said for him is he could turn into this year's Mike Belfiore, maybe. What good would it do a guy to be this year's Mike Belfiore? Probably not much.
So long, Luis, and good luck, unless you ever pitch against the Orioles. May you always find yourself in a place with a manager who knows never to use you with inherited runners.