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Bull session

It seems like every Orioles loss brings a new appreciation for the size of the job facing Andy MacPhail during the offseason -- and there's obviously way more to it than finding an impact guy for the middle of the lineup and one of the corners of the infield.

No matter who's swinging the bat, there will be little hope for solid improvement if the Orioles go into spring training with the same group of relievers that has floundered so dramatically in the second half of this season.

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When MacPhail talked about the club suffering a little more "short-term" pain after George Sherrill was dealt to the Dodgers, it seemed to make sense, Now, with Jim Johnson's status as a dependable closer very much in doubt, the makeup of the entire 2010 relief corps seems problematic. We all knew the club was going to miss Sherrill, but we -- and maybe even Andy -- didn't know how much.

Johnson (far right) and Chris Ray probably will compete for the closer role next spring, but their uneven second-half performances have created the need for an additional last-inning option. There were some brief moments when Kam Mickolio looked like he might have the right stuff for the role, but we're talking about an area where you need some sense of stability. Might have to go outside the organization for that.

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Maybe Mark Hendrickson sticks around as an all-purpose left-hander and Cla Meredith stays in the mix, but the Orioles are going to have to bring in or develop one more dependable middle guy. I suppose that could be Jason Berken, but I'm not going to be too confident if the O's come back in the spring with most of the usual suspects.

So, I'll throw it out there. Who would shore up this bullpen? And who should be on the next bus out of town?

Associated Press photo

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