With the exception of Mike Gonzalez's blown save on Tuesday night, the Orioles bullpen has performed admirably through the first two games of the season, so I've got no problem whatsoever with the way manager Dave Trembley has handled it.
Will Ohman has pitched well twice. Jim Johnson and Matt Albers looked good in their first outings. Cla Meredith gave up a home run to Evan Longoria last night, but that's going to be a big club by the end of the season.
If I have a problem with the bullpen, it's really more philosophical. Trembley, like almost all major league managers, goes with a fairly standard bullpen schematic that calls for a couple of matchup middle guys for the seventh inning, an eighth-inning setup guy and a go-to closer that starts the ninth inning.
It looks great when it works, and it generally will work pretty good if you've got a good bullpen and your starters get you an out or two in the seventh inning. It looks even better if you hit well enough to have more than a one-run lead at that point in the game.
Even in that situation, however, I've got a problem with the doctrinaire nature of the thing, since it contains one mathematical flaw that almost guarantees a surprisingly high level of failure if you don't have an absolutely outstanding bullpen.
If you have an average bullpen and trot four relievers out to pitch in a close game, there's a pretty good chance that one of them is not going to be at his best, and it only takes that one shaky guy to wipe away all the good things that happened in the course of a hard-fought game.
This theory has not come into play for the Orioles...yet. Trembley got exactly what he was looking for from his bullpen on Tuesday until Gonzalez gave up three hits in the ninth, and there isn't a manager in baseball who wouldn't have brought in his new closer in that situation. Dave pretty much got what he needed on Wednesday night, too.
But looking down the road, there's something to be said for playing the hot hand once in awhile and leaving a middle guy in to pitch to a couple more batters -- regardless of matchup -- if he's throwing well. The more buttons you push, the more the likelihood that you push the wrong one.
For instance, if you're eighth-inning setup guy comes in and looks overpowering getting out of the eighth, doesn't it make more sense to let him start the ninth than gamble on how sharp your closer is going to be at the start of the inning?
I know the argument against that. If you do it too much, you might wear out your setup guy. Maybe so, but I'll start worrying about that when the Orioles have enough leads going into the ninth inning to find out.