SEATTLE -- When he was named Orioles interim manager last June, Dave Trembley said one of his immediate goals was to ease the burden on his two top setup men, Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford.
The offseason bullpen additions and the recent success of his starting pitchers have finally allowed him to do it. Entering last night's series finale against the Seattle Mariners, Bradford and Walker had each pitched just three times over the past 10 days.
"That was one of the [club's] goals, to make sure we shored up the back of our bullpen and returned Bradford and Walker to roles that they'd be better suited for," said Trembley, whose starting pitchers have gone at least six innings in six of the past seven games.
"I'm not saying Walker and Bradford can't come in and get three outs. They can do that, but I just believe for the makeup of this club, more times or not, those guys are better suited to situational pitch."
Through 21 games, the left-handed Walker had made 10 appearances and had been asked to get three or more outs in just three of them. The right-handed Bradford had been given the ball eight times and kept in for an inning or more four times.
Through 21 games last season, Walker had made 12 appearances, six of them for three outs or more. Bradford had pitched in 13 games, five of them for three outs or more.
"My work has been cut down a little but I'm not worried about my appearances, to be honest with you," said Walker, who tied for the American League lead and set a franchise record with 81 appearances last year. "It's not my goal to lead the league in appearances. My goal is to get a hitter out and help the Orioles win a ballgame."
Bradford has said in the past that the more he pitches, the better he is. However, he said he has had no problems staying sharp during the stretch.
"It feels normal," said Bradford, who made 78 appearances last year. "I'm still getting my work in."
In Tuesday's series opener, Trembley allowed Jeremy Guthrie to start the eighth inning, even though Walker and Dennis Sarfate were ready in the bullpen.
On Wednesday, Trembley pulled Daniel Cabrera in favor of George Sherrill after eight innings even though Cabrera had retired 15 of his final 16 batters and his pitch count was only at 95.
The difference, Trembley said, is that the game was tied when Guthrie went back to the mound, and the Orioles had the lead when Cabrera was removed.
"If it would've been tied, I would have done it [with Cabrera] to give him a chance to win," Trembley said. "Just like I did with Guthrie, I'm going to do what's right in the long run.
"We're trying to establish something here, and I'm going to do that for the pitcher. But I'm also going to do for the team what I think is right. Once we took the lead, we have a guy down there [Sherrill] that is going to close games for us."
Toward the end of spring training, Trembley announced his plan to have backup Guillermo Quiroz serve as Adam Loewen's personal catcher. However, Ramon Hernandez caught Loewen last night for the second time in four starts. Trembley said it has become a matter of circumstance.
"I'll do whatever I can according to what the schedule is," Trembley said. "In this series, Ramon has done a nice job calling the game behind the plate. He seems to have a pretty good idea what's going on with the hitters. [It's] a travel day [today]. I'll let him catch this series and put Quiroz back there [for tonight's series opener with the Chicago White Sox]."