Troy Patton was expected to be the second LHP of the Orioles bullpen behind Brian Matusz coming into the season, but he was suspended for 25 games for amphetamines. His suspension has created opportunities for Zach Britton to shine, but now that his suspension is over, how will Patton affect the bullpen management for Buck Showalter?
Josh Stinson has been optioned to Norfolk as a direct impact of Patton's activation. Stinson has been the mop-up guy for the O's, as evidenced by the leverage index of 0.18 (league average 1.0) when he enters the game. This job will likely fall to Evan Meek after Stinson's departure. Although Buck has shown an uncomfortable level of trust in Meek in high-leverage situations so far this season, he has not proven worthy of the task. His ERA of 6.75 is the second highest of the bullpen after Stinson. His peripherals are mediocre at best, and he would be the next man to Norfolk were another reliever needed.
There will be three LHP in the bullpen for the O's as Patton returns to action. The good news for the O's is that none of Patton, Britton and Matusz is necessarily a LOOGY. They can each be depended on for an entire inning in close games. Zach Britton has certainly proved his value in the bullpen. He is used a multi-inning weapon when the starter cannot go deep into games, and we should not expect that to change. Matusz will continue to be the first one out of the bullpen against a left-handed batter in critical situations.
Does Patton displace any of the RHP from their roles in the bullpen? Tommy Hunter will continue to be the closer. Darren O'Day will continue to be the most reliable pitcher against right-handed batters. Ryan Webb, signed to a two-year contract this offseason, has been used sparingly in close games so far this season. Webb's role has not been significant to the O's, and even if Patton replaces Webb in his role, the impact on the O's would be minimal. Where does this leave Patton?
In the case that Matusz has already been deployed, Patton will be the one facing a left-handed batter in a high-leverage situation. Other than that, Patton is likely to handle lower-leverage innings until someone else in the bullpen gets hurt or underperforms significantly. Think of the role of Ryan Webb so far this season, and Patton's would not be all that different. Patton's return definitely adds to the depth of the Orioles bullpen, but he will have little immediate impact on the O's bullpen.