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Competition for O's bullpen early spring training story line

Though much of the offseason focus has been on the Orioles' rotation and rightly so, the competition to make the club's bullpen is shaping up to be one of the most interesting spring story lines. A lot can happen in the weeks before pitchers and catchers report in terms of both trades and injuries, but you have to figure that George Sherrill, Chris Ray, Jim Johnson and Dennis Sarfate are pretty much guaranteed bullpen spots (yes I realize all four are coming off arm or shoulder injuries). That doesn't leave too many vacancies for a group of relief candidates that could include Matt Albers, Danys Baez, Brian Bass, Randor Bierd, Brian Burres, Alberto Castillo, Lance Cormier, Jim Hoey, Radhames Liz, Bob McCrory, Kam Mickolio, Jim Miller, Hayden Penn, Garrett Olson, Jamie Walker. Of course , several of the above-mentioned pitchers – mainly Albers, Bass, Liz, Penn and Olson – are viable candidates for starting rotations, either in Baltimore or Triple-A Norfolk. And a couple of the other candidates would probably be better served learning the craft on minor league mounds for a little longer.

Andy MacPhail's offseason wish list includes a right-handed hitting outfielder to potentially platoon with Luke Scott, who hit just .215 against southpaws last year with a .300 on-base percentage. Lou Montanez would seem to fit the bill, but team officials remain very concerned about his defense, which Montanez is working on this offseason. As comfortable as he looked at the plate after his promotion last season, Montanez's throws and routes to the ball didn't exactly instill a ton of confidence. And prospect Nolan Reimold? Barring a jaw-popping hitting spree in spring training, Reimold will be manning a corner outfield spot for Triple-A Norfolk to start the season.

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-- Jeff Zrebiec


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