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Orioles: Ray's return

The return of reliever Chris Ray could give a significant boost to the Orioles bullpen if his numbers at Norfolk are indicative that he has solved the mechanical problems that drove his major league ERA near double digits earlier this season.

If Ray is truly back, that will take some strain off Jim Johnson and create the possibility of a true 7-8-9 bullpen schematic that would give manager Dave Trembley greatly improved middle-late flexibility even without a proven situational left-hander.

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Of course, it's a big if. Ray was a very good reliever before he missed a year recovering from Tommy John surgery, so his upside is way up, but he could not sustain his solid spring performance during the early weeks of the regular season. Everybody's rooting for him, because he's a great kid and solid citizen, but he's got quite a bit to prove before the Orioles can, say, think about dealing closer George Sherrill at the July 31 deadline and replacing the Johnson/Sherrill late relief combination with a Ray/Johnson combo.

Check it out: My latest column is up on the Web sitem, so if you want my opinion on what the O's should do leading into the July 31 trade deadline, read it here.

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Today on the radio: I'll be talking Orioles tonight at six on WBAL (1090 AM) as the club gets ready to face the Florida Marlins in a three-game interleague series at Dolphin Stadium. If you're outside of signal range, go to WBAL.com and click on the "Listen Live" icon.

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