As Roch reported and duck shared earlier, the 2008 Opening Day bullpen is set. It looks a little somethin' like this:
George Sherrill, LH (CL)
Jamie Walker, LH
Chad Bradford, RH
Randor Bierd, RH
Dennis Sarfate, RH
Greg Aquino, RH
Matt Albers, RH
What a rag-tag group.
Sherrill got here this offseason via the Bedard trade, Sarfate and Albers are products of the Tejada deal, Bradford and Walker are the two free agent relievers left standing of the four signed in the 2006 offseason, Bierd is a Rule 5 pick, and Aquino is a scrapheap semi-veteran.
AND I'M LOVIN' IT.
Albers losing the fifth spot in the rotation to Burres will probably be short-lived should he pitch well from the pen and Burres, as expected, doesn't exactly impress when given the ball every fifth day. I'm also quite happy that Trembley didn't go bananas on situational stuff. Walker will face tough lefties late, Bradford will face tough righties late, and hopefully Sherrill's newfound 2007 ability to get right-handed batters out will carry over.
The last two Baltimore bullpens have been truly wretched. I'm not saying they cost us a chance to put up an 82-80 season, but they were horrendous nonetheless. Danys Baez having no part of the Opening Day pen is good news -- not that I want him to be hurt, but he stinks -- and I'd imagine we'll see Chris Ray in August or September, though how good he is from here on out is going to be a little bit up in the air, since he wasn't very good last year anyway, after all his 2006 luck ran out and bit him in the ass, as just about everyone that really took a good look at his stats feared it might.
I really do like the fact that outside of Bradford and Walker, these aren't a bunch of notable free agent guys. It's tough to buy relief pitching, which the Orioles learned the hard way last year.
The most beneficial thing for everyone would be if Bradford and Walker (and probably Sherrill, too) continue pitching well and are useful trade bait for contenders looking for help late in the ballgame.
I do worry (well, sort of) that Sherrill might tank as the closer. He was superb for the Mariners last year, but he's also 31 years old and that season sticks out like a sore thumb. We're not talking about B.J. Ryan here -- this isn't a guy that was SO dominant that it was unreal. He was just really good.
If he does lose the spot, Walker did OK in a brief stint as the closer last season, and Greg Aquino has some experience in the role, too, though I still liken Aquino's closer experience to that of the dreaded Ryan Kohlmeier.
Giving guys like Bierd and Sarfate chances to be ground level pieces of the bullpen could pay dividends. And if it doesn't, then screw it -- they didn't really cost you anything, so scrap them and try someone else.
After 2006, I thought the bullpen couldn't get worse. $20 million or so later, and it actually had. Everything about what Andy MacPhail and even Diamond Dave Trembley are doing right now is refreshing -- this is like a big pile of that time that Lee Mazzilli actually picked Chris Gomez over Enrique Wilson, despite Wilson's knowledge of how to win, because Gomez outplayed him all spring.