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5. Will the bullpen be as good as it was last year?
Heading into the season, most pundits predicted the Orioles bullpen wouldn't be able to duplicate its success from last year, and that's why the O's wouldn't repeat the success of 2012.
The Orioles pen had a 3.00 ERA last year. At the break, the relievers have a 3.68 ERA.
Here's the difference. Last season the Orioles blew 18 saves as a team. At the break this season, they've already blown 17.
During closer Jim Johnson's 51-save season last year, he blew just three saves. This year, he leads the AL with 33 saves, but he's already blown six saves.
Johnson will sort out his issues. He went through a rough stretch in May, blowing four of five save opportunities, but Showalter will make sure that won't happen again.
The sum of the parts still equals a solid bullpen, but it's much less bulletproof than last year's. Pedro Strop entered the season coming off a sparkling World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic, but he struggled from the beginning off the regular season. The club traded Luis Ayala, who ate innings in 2012, to Atlanta and then dealt Strop to the Cubs along with Arrieta.
That has placed Tommy Hunter, who began the season in long relief, into a late-inning role, and he's done well with it. Darren O'Day is 5-0 with a 2.16 ERA with 14 holds.
But last year's formula of playing matchups with a pen full of arms that could excel in both situational and multiple innings just hadn't been the same.
Showalter had made sure the health of the bullpen isn't compromised and at times that's led to a shuttle of arms from Norfolk.
Here's saying that the Orioles try to upgrade the bullpen by trade to shore up the relief corps for down the stretch. Or they could resume the Kevin Gausman bullpen project, which seemed to pay dividends by boosting the 22-year-old pitching prospect confidence and innings.
May 8, 2013