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Breaking down the Orioles bullpen without Darren O'Day

Breaking down the Orioles bullpen without Darren O'Day
Orioles relief pitcher Brad Brach throws the Kansas City Royals' Omar Infante out at first base on a grounder to end a game on Saturday, April 23, 2016, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (John Sleezer / TNS)

In their first game of at least two weeks without ever-present reliever Darren O'Day in the bullpen, the Orioles strung together 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief with T.J. McFarland, Mychal Givens and Zach Britton to allow for a 6-5 comeback win over the New York Yankees on Friday.
 
The entirety of that group, plus manager Buck Showalter, was upbeat after the game about the team's chances without the All-Star O'Day, who suffered a strained hamstring Wednesday and went on the disabled list Friday afternoon.
 
"We talked to Darren before the game, and he's obviously disappointed with it, but we've got a deeper bullpen than I can remember having," Britton said. "We knew that guys were just going to have to step up and some other guys were going to have to throw some important innings.
 
"T.J. and Mychal did a good job, and I didn't have any doubt they were going to do a good job. We kind of just tried to stay in the same mindset that we've had all season long and pick up Darren. If he takes a little time to heal — and he should, he should take his time and not rush back — then we've got it covered."
 
McFarland, who only returned to the bullpen this week after spending most of May with Triple-A Norfolk, allowed a hit in a scoreless inning in relief of Chris Tillman before ceding the game to Givens. Showalter said McFarland, who is also a candidate to start Monday in the rotation spot vacated by Mike Wright, is an important piece.
 
"Getting Mac back, he's a weapon for us," Showalter said. "Makes the rest of the bullpen better by the things he can do and the versatility that he has. It's not always that he overpowers somebody, but he's little by little."
 
Then, it was Givens to face slugging Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, another high-leverage situation in a season full of them.
 
"Mychal's been thrown in the fire mostly because we think he can handle it," Showalter said. "We have other options, but he's responded to it well."
 
Givens had to essentially face Rodriguez twice, as his seventh-inning plate appearance ended with a caught stealing. Givens retired Rodriguez the second time on a pop-up. Givens is frequently summoned in situations where the Orioles need strikeouts — he has 36 in 26 1/3 innings, and has allowed righties to bat just .162 off him in 68 at-bats. Givens, whose ERA fell to 2.05 Friday, said he's "definitely" ready for whatever new role comes his way.
 
"It sucks right now to not have Darren, because he's a big contributor and a leader," Givens said. "He's always keeping our bullpen loose. To not have him, he's going through what he's doing right now, so we're just going to try to pick him up and wait until he gets back."
 
Brad Brach also warmed up in that eighth inning that Givens ultimately breezed through, and figures to be a big part of the Orioles' plans without O'Day. He already was with O'Day in the fold, making 24 appearances with a 0.91 ERA in 29 2/3 innings.
 
Brach has every intention of keeping that going.
 
"If I'm coming in and winning games, just keep throwing me out there," he said. "For me, that's fine. I do what I need to do to be ready, and I think all the guys do down there. I think it's a big opportunity here for all of us really to step up. If Zach needs a day, someone else will come in to close and it's just one of those things where we're all going to have to pick up for Darren."
 
Brach said it's an especially big opportunity for young pitchers like Givens and Dylan Bundy to get higher-leverage appearances. But because Showalter uses each of his relievers for longer stints and doesn't limit them to strict roles, there's more ability to adapt, he said.
 
"I think it goes to show the versatility of our bullpen," Brach said. "I think it's probably the most versatile in the league, just because we have guys who can throw multiple innings on back-to-back days. Some of the other bullpens, it seems like they're more one-inning guys, seventh, eighth, ninth. You know Buck's never going to do it that way, which is good. You know any guy can go out there and get five, six outs if they need to and come back out the next day."
 
Britton, who notched his 16th save in 16 tries Friday, believes the Orioles are set up well with Brach shifting into the big situations O'Day has owned for the past four years.
 
"I think obviously Brad has thrown the ball outstanding, and he can do a bunch of different things, too," Britton said. "I've thrown multiple innings, so if some guy has got to throw more innings than he's accustomed to, that's just the way it's got to be. We've got to win some of these ballgames right now, too.
 
"But like I said, Mychal, he's going to get the opportunity to throw in some very high-leverage situations. He's capable. Bundy's capable. Vance Worley has shown that he can throw the ball really well in tight situations, and obviously T.J. Brian Duensing's been around for a long time, he can do it — I've watched him do it against us. I think we're going to be OK."  

Baltimore Sun reporter Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this story.

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