There’s only one set of players on any major league spring training roster whose jobs are anything like what they’d be in the regular season. Luckily for the Orioles, it’s the only subset of the roster performing well this early in spring training: relievers.
Over the past few days, the Orioles have gotten strong outings from some of the players they expect to rely on in the back end of the bullpen once camp breaks on March 31.
On Friday, it was right-handers Mychal Givens and Odrisamer Despaigne who were the standouts in relief. Givens, who shot from Double-A to the majors last season and struck out 38 batters in 30 major league innings, along with 79 batters in 57 1/3 innings for Bowie, threw two scoreless innings against the New York Yankees in his native Tampa.
With two strikeouts, Givens brought his total to seven in 4 2/3 innings this spring — tying him for fourth in all of baseball through the brief spring campaign.
Despaigne could be a swingman option at some point, though he might work as a starter considering he went 2 1/3 innings Friday and could have opportunities to start games once minor league camp opens.
Manager Buck Showalter said Despaigne's velocity and sharpness have improved in each of his four outings this spring.
A day ago, in a 4-4 tie with the Yankees in Sarasota, reliever Brad Brach worked around a pair of hits for two scoreless innings of relief at Ed Smith Stadium, the second clean outing he has managed this spring.
The two stars at the back end of the bullpen, Zach Britton and Darren O’Day, have been used sparingly but have still found success. O’Day threw a bullpen session Thursday to work on something new in private, while Britton has just two appearances, the last coming Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies.
And potential bullpen reinforcements have performed well throughout the spring, including right-hander Oliver Drake (four scoreless innings over four appearances), Jason Garcia (one earned run over three appearances) and Pedro Beato (three scoreless appearances).
It hasn’t all been rosy in the Orioles bullpen, of course. Dylan Bundy, the former first-round draft pick who must stick in the bullpen or be risked on waivers, allowed two runs on four hits in an inning Thursday.
The two top left-handers in contention for a bullpen spot, Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland, have missed time with back and elbow issues, respectively.
But as the camp roster begins to shrink, there will be more opportunity for these key cogs to get more game experience in the types of situations they’ll find themselves in come April.
Not everyone has had a spring training to remember, but at least in the past few games, a purported strength of the Orioles — the bullpen — has lived up to its billing.