BALTIMORE — The Orioles’ bullpen has undergone a closer change and a multitude of shuffling pitchers between the majors and the minors.
Zach Britton replaced Tommy Hunter as the closer due to ineffectiveness, and also because Hunter served a brief stint on the disabled list. There have been relievers who are only in Baltimore for a short time, such as Preston Guilmet, Brad Brach, and others.
But the current makeup of the Baltimore bullpen may stick for a while, particularly if the Orioles continue to get quality outings from their starter.
Entering Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay, Orioles relievers had posted a 0.38 ERA in the last seven games. And it hasn’t just been one reliever carrying most of the load, but rather each of them pitching effectively.
Britton has posted a 1.52 ERA this season and has converted 10 of his 11 save opportunities. He has fared much better than Hunter in the role and has found himself pitching better than he did in the past as a starter.
Darren O’Day has also been impressive, pitching to a 1.41 ERA in his first 33 appearancese of the season.
Brian Matusz has succeeded in not only getting left-handed batters out, but providing some quality innings of middle relief. So has Ryan Webb, who entered Saturday with a 2-1 record and 2.55 ERA.
Those guys were all expected to be heavy contributors to the Orioles’ bullpen. Baltimore has also gotten some great relief from some unexpected pitchers too.
T.J. McFarland has a 2.81 ERA in 13 appearances this season. And in June, McFarland has the second lowest ERA among American League relievers, giving up one earned run in 14 2-3 innings (0.61).
“He’s in a pretty good groove,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Having a guy like Mac who can defend himself against right-handed and left-handed hitters is big in the length.”
Showalter is also a fan of McFarland’s versatility.
“Another thing about Mac. Some guy walks in here with food poisoning or whatever, I can walk around the corner, ‘Mac, you’re starting. Get your stuff ready.’ ‘Fine,’” Showalter said. “He can do that.”
This past week, the Orioles’ bullpen depth has been on full display. In the first game of Friday’s doubleheader against the Rays, Brach and Evan Meek each pitched two scoreless innings of relief.
That helped save the bullpen for the rest of the series, as well as an eight-inning start from Chris Tillman in the nightcap.
In Wednesday’s 5-4 extra-inning win over the White Sox, six Baltimore relievers combined to pitch 5 2-3 innings of scoreless relief, giving up just three hits and striking out six.
“Bullpen was fantastic,” Matusz said after the game. “We’ve got a great group of guys down there in the bullpen. Today was a good example of it.”