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How did we get here? O's bullpen, 2010-2011

How did we go from the August 2010 laughing stock of the American League to the 2014 American League Championship Series? A look at the roster evolution of the Orioles bullpen under Buck Showalter from 2010-2011.

Oh, Koji. We still miss you.
Oh, Koji. We still miss you.
Rob Carr

Just how much has changed since 2010 in the roster construction? How did we get to this particular collection of players that has the O's just four wins from a World Series appearance? Let's take a look at just how we got to the current starting roster of the Orioles by tracing its roots in that 2010 roster that Buck inherited. This entry will focus on the bullpen. I apologize for any trauma suffered in recalling these names (and performances) in advance.

If there was one constant failing by the Orioles from 1998-2010, aside from an absolute dearth of position players developed in-house, it was the construction and performance of the Orioles' bullpen for almost a decade and a half. Jorge Julio didn't work out. Chris Ray worked, then didn't. Pitchers like Steve Reed, Eric DuBose, Tim Byrdak, Jason Grimsley - none were the bullpen solutions the O's needed (and that was just in 2005).  I beg of you, do not go look at for the 2008 Orioles bullpen, at least not without a grief counselor at the ready.


HWGH - Relievers

The bullpen that Buck Showalter inherited in August, 2010 wasn't good. There's no way to pretty it up, they stunk. The closer (Alfredo Simon) has a ERA+ of 85, the reliever with the most innings (Matt Albers) had an ERA of 4.52, and the guy with 0.1 fewer IP (Mark Hendrickson) had an ERA over 5.00. This was not a good group.

The entries for this summary will necessarily be shorter, given the increase in number of players discussed. I also made an arbitrary decision to limit discussion to those relievers with at least 20 appearances in a given season. So if you were looking for fond memories of Rick van den Hurk or Miguel Socolovich, you will be disappointed.  Each reliever will be discussed in the year he made his debut in the bullpen for the Orioles. This article will cover 2010-2011, the last article to be published later today will cover 2012-2014.

2010 Relievers

Alfredo Simon wasn't good as a reliever, although he did save 17 games. His ERA was just a touch under 5.00 for 2010. He would become a starter the next year, but not before he got arrested and charged with killing a guy in the Dominican Republic (and eventually be acquitted). He would be just as bad as a starter, and left the O's, finding his way to the Cubs Reds. This became a theme for the Orioles.

Cla Meredith was missing a vowel and lost his job at the end of 2010. His 21 appearances in 2010, with a 5.40 ERA and 1.467 WHIP, would be his last in MLB.

David Hernandez started the year as a starter, struggled (he had a 5.31 ERA in 8 starts), and ended the year as a closer (with a 3.16 ERA in the bullpen) and would be shipped (with Kam Mickolio) to Arizona in the off-season for Mark Reynolds. He's fought injuries ever since, and didn't throw a pitch in the majors last year.

Jason Berken was once a thing. I attended his debut, a Tuesday in May 2009. He won his first start against Toronto, pitching 5.0 innings, and we thought we had something. Ended up it was probably the food poisoning. He finished the season a 6-12 record, went to the 'pen in 2010, and found success  in middle relief  with an ERA of 3.03 over 40 games without finishing any. He'd finish the year on the 60-day disabled list due to a partially torn labrum. He'd never be that good again, was used in middle relief again in 2011, spiked his ERA to 5.36. He eventually was DFA'din 2012 and claimed by, who else, the Cubs.

Jim Johnson was pretty good until he wasn't. Between 2008-2013, his ERA+ dipped below 123 just once.  He spent much of 2010 on the 60-day disabled list, came back to good results, and eventually earned an All Star berth in 2012. But after surrendering the lead in Game 1 of the 2012 ALDS against the hated Yankees, he never seemed to be the same pitcher. After nine blown saves in 2013, Johnson was traded to Oakland for little-used Jemile Weeks. However, the salary relief the trade offered led to the acquisition of Nelson Cruz, and everyone lived happily ever after. Except Jim Johnson. He got released by Oakland, picked up by Detroit, and did so badly they left him off the ALDS roster.

Koji Uehara was everyone's favorite reliever in 2010. And with a 2.86 ERA and 13 saves when he moved into the closer's role, it's easy to see why. He continued his torrid pace in 2011, when he was flipped to Texas for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter. He eventually landed in Boston, helped the Red Sox win a World Series, and promptly lost his ability to get batters out in 2014. After August 1, he amassed an ERA over 5.00 for the Red Sox.

Mark Hendrickson was really tall, and really bad at pitching while he was with the Orioles in 2010. He had a 5.26 ERA in 75 innings. He did not return in 2011.

Matt Albers had a bad nickname (Hey, hey, hey! It's FAAAAAAT Albers!) and bad results for the 2010 Orioles. He had a 4.52 ERA in 75 innings in 2010 and also did not return.

Mike Gonzalez, not be confused with actually effective pitcher Miguel Gonzales, was left-handed and not as terrible as Albers and Hendrickson, but not by much. He famously blew saves in two of the Orioles first three games in 2010, and was the only player greeted with boos at the subsequent home opener. He had an ERA north of 4.00 for 2010, and got one more chance to prove himself in 2011. The ERA went up to 4.27, and his Orioles career ended that off-season.

2011 Relievers

Brad Bergesen had an awesome month (and nickname, "3E1N") in his debut in 2009, until DAMN YOU, BILLY BUTLER! happened. Bergesen threw 111 innings in a mixture of starts and relief in 2011, had a 5.7 ERA, and was released in June 2012. He was picked up by Arizona, threw 29 marginally effective innings and ended his pro career with a year in Japan in 2013.

Chris Jakubauskas was the bane of many a sportswriter's existence with that last name, and pitched to a 5.72 ERA, angering even those of us who didn't have to spell his name correctly for a living. He threw 72 innings, most of them not good, and was done as a MLB pitcher after 2011.

Clay Rapada, affectionately known as Creepy Teeth among many here on Camden Chat, continued the trend of underperforming middle relief in 2011. His ERA was over 6.00, and signed as a free agent with the Yankees the next season. He promptly put up a sub-3.00 ERA, because of course he did. He then bounced around a few teams, and ultimately re-signed with the Orioles in June 2014, only to be released in August without throwing a pitch at the MLB level.

Jeremy Accardo had been a "just a guy" pitcher for most of his career, aside from two good seasons in Toronto spread over four years.  He returned to "just a guy" status in Baltimore (5.73 ERA with a 74 ERA+), and was not retained in 2012.

Kevin Gregg was the object of many a fan's ire in his Orioles career. Whether it was our inability to acquire a taste for his pitching or his inability to get batters out (he blew 7 saves in 2011), he wore out his welcome pretty quickly in Charm City. A 4.95 ERA in 2012 guaranteed his exit, and not many were sorry to see him go.

Troy Patton was to be the power left arm out of the bullpen for the Orioles, but between his own self-inflicted problems (a 25-game suspension for amphetamines in 2014 and a DUI conviction in 2011) and his declining results, the O's felt they had enough reason to trade him to San Diego for catcher Nick Hundley in May 2014.

The last installation of this series will be the bullpen from 2012-2014.