By Dan Connolly
The Baltimore Sun
2:00 PM EDT, May 14, 2012
If you are still itching for bright spots despite the Orioles’ hot start, I have another one for you: The fact the team sent down reliever Stu Pomeranz to Triple-A on Sunday can be viewed with a positive spin. He had two scoreless outings, hit 95 mph on the radar gun and yet was deemed expendable because the bullpen is so deep and effective right now. This time last year, two scoreless outings got you groomed as a closer.
Let’s play devil’s advocate here, too. You can view the Pomeranz decision negatively, if you like. The Orioles demoted Pomeranz because he has minor league options. And yet there’s a real argument that he is one of the best 25 players in the organization right now. But the Orioles always seem to catch themselves in a numbers crunch by protecting players who either would get through waivers or wouldn’t be a huge loss if they didn’t. There are a couple examples of those on the roster right now. At some point, they have to stop worrying about what a fringe player might do on another team and instead should concentrate on what gives them the best chance to win now – so long as it doesn’t hamper the development of actual prospects.
Several people asked me about my thoughts on outfielder Xavier Avery, raw prospect turned major leaguer on Sunday. First, I’m happy for the kid. I’ve watched him closely for the past couple seasons, talked to him each of the past three springs. And this March he seemed like the awe was washed away and he felt like he belonged. Scouts are very much torn on Avery. Some think he’ll be overmatched at the plate and in the outfield – where he doesn’t always take the greatest routes. Others drool over his tools and think he can develop into a useful fourth outfielder at the least.
Brad Bergesen’s descent within the organization has been pretty astounding. In 2009, he was touted as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate (7-5, 3.43 ERA in 19 starts) before taking a menacing comebacker by Billy Butler off his left leg that ended his season. On Saturday, he was designated for assignment after getting buried on the depth chart in Triple-A. Bergesen isn’t blameless here. He couldn’t maintain consistency in the majors and the coaching staff felt he got away from what made him so effective: throwing his two-seamer effortlessly in and out of the strike zone. Toward the end, the organization felt like Bergesen wasn’t nearly as coachable as he had been when he came up. But let’s not forget that Bergesen wasn’t exactly treated superbly by the organization. The fact that he hurt his arm while repeatedly throwing for a MASN TV commercial in the 2009 offseason is still inexcusable. I’ve never heard Andy MacPhail so angry (except for maybe after Aubrey Huff’s infamous radio appearance). And MacPhail’s anger wasn’t directed at Bergesen, who was just trying to please, but at MASN. This is one instance where I hope a player gets claimed off waivers. Bergesen is a good guy and I think it would be best for him and the organization to part ways – and for him to get a fresh start. But then it will be up to him to make the proper adjustments in the majors.
From the head-shaking department: There was some jawing back and forth Saturday in an Atlantic League game between the Somerset Patriots and the York Revolution. The problem: A guy from Somerset homered and then watched the ball carry out, pimping the homer and showing up the pitcher. When he came back to the plate, the Revolution catcher shouted his disapproval at the hitter, and the sides jawed although there was no further altercation.
Who was the hitter in question? Freddie “Boom-Boom” Bynum, who played for the Orioles for parts of two seasons in 2007 and 2008. I have two memories of Bynum: One, him making a game-ending error in Toronto in 2008 and then refusing to talk to reporters afterward, as if it were our fault. Two, the story of Bynum being catapulted into a locker by former Orioles coach Juan Samuel. Samuel didn’t like Bynum’s attitude and was ready to teach him a physical lesson, according to those who witnessed it. Bynum didn’t come up for more. Based on his actions in an independent league game – it was Bynum’s first homer of the season, by the way -- looks like maybe he should have.
It’s gloomy today. And it is supposed to be that way through Tuesday. Postponing one of the games until the Yankees come back in September would be an option. And with CC Sabathia on the mound Tuesday, and the Orioles scheduled to play 10 more games in a row before a break, I’m not sure a rainout would be a terrible thing for the Orioles. Not saying they’d skip one on purpose; just saying sometimes rainouts aren’t always a disruption.
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