What do you do?

I’m off this series in Toronto with a prior engagement, but I’ve gotten a bunch of emails and questions on Twitter –enough to make me check out the remnants of last night’s game via the box score.

The question is, what do you do with Brad Bergesen? Should you have left him in longer? Do you call up Zach Britton in his place? Do you let Britton continue to develop?

Like I said, I’m not with the team and I don’t play couch-GM nearly as good as my friend/colleague MASN’s Roch Kubatko. I’ll be back with the O’s for Kansas City on Thursday, and by then I’m sure we will know Bergy’s fate.

The thing is, I’m not sure what the right move is here. It’s hard to punish a guy who is far from alone in his struggles. Do you send all the young guys back to Norfolk? Or do you let them develop in what is essentially a lost season ? Do you weigh each particular case in terms of who can maybe work through their issues up here and who can’t?

I wasn’t covering the Orioles last year and only vaguely remember Brad Bergesen when I covered an Os-Yanks series. I’ve heard he was great, a pleasant surprise for Baltimore. I’ve seen flashes of it (like that game at Fenway Park), but for the most part Bergy’s been ineffective. Is it mental or mechanical? Is the League catching up to him?

I’m just as perplexed/astounded as most of you are. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, interim manager Juan Samuel and pitching coach Rick Kranitz. But I certainly wouldn’t want any of their jobs right about now.

I will say this: I’ve done a lot of talking, mostly off the record in the visitors’ clubhouse and on the road. The general consensus about the Os young arms is they’re talented but the expectations placed on them this spring were incredibly unrealistic.
 
“Everything had to go right for those guys to have a chance,” said one rival GM. “And everything has gone wrong.”

None of these guys are even 25 yet. And most of them have about a year of service time -Bergy’s a little more, Jake Arrieta’s a little less, etc.  Will they all be as good as hyped? Probably not. But they aren’t this bad, either.

If they were scattered about other organizations maybe they’d still be in the Minor leagues or be a fifth starter with far less expectation. Instead, they are all up here together, pitching in the AL East with the general consensus being that they are the “Calvary” that will restore the O’s to prominence.

This spring, I spoke with an opposing pitching coach who watched Chris Tillman throw a Grapefruit League game and marvel at the possibilities. “They’re talented,” he said of the O’s young arms. “But they’re still a couple years away.”

The problem with relying on growing the young arms is the O’s don’t have any veterans or journeyman pitchers in the organization, or at Norfolk, who can come up and serve as filler. 

Look at the Tides rotation, or most of their roster in general. It’s a youth movement. I acknowledge that they’re trying to restock their farm system and really build a nice young core, but I think the element of adding a sprinkling of veterans, especially at Norfolk, was incredibly overlooked. Even the guys who are older, so to speak, don’t have years of League experience.

I know several AL teams overpay their Minor League veterans when they’re free agents to get them to stay in the system. The benefits are two-fold : first, you get a solid backup option if your prospects aren’t ready and you need a guy to come up for a quick stint. Two, you get veterans who are generally in good spirits about the organization and willing to help foster a positive, learning atmosphere. You get enough of these guys –particularly those who have been in the bigs — and your Triple-A team also starts to win a lot more games than it loses. In the Triple-A International League the top three teams are the Yankees and Rays affiliates, with Cleveland’s Columbus squad leading the West division. I’m not saying winning in the Minor Leagues is everything, but it’s certainly something.
  
The O’s lack of these types of veterans has also handcuffed them to an extent. It’s hard to trade away Jeremy Guthrie when you can’t think of a guy to take that roster spot. I know Kevin Millwood has come under fire, but he’s usually good for at least six innings.

People are clamoring for Britton to come up, but is he ready? He’s only made a handful of starts since being promoted from Double-A. He’s a guy you don’t want to have to shuttle back-and-forth, like they’ve done (erroneously in my opinion) with guys like Tillman and Bergesen.

This was supposed to be the year they all stood on their feet, so to speak. But having no backup option in case they didn’t, no Plan B, was risky. And now, you’re seeing just how dangerous it is.

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5 Comments

Excellent blog Brittany ! Personally I think Brad needs to work on his arm slot & command heavily. Whatever he had to post 7-5 with a 3.43 era last year has been lost ! A pitch to contact, sinkerball pitcher doesn’t really need to worry as much about “THE LEAGUE CATCHING UP” cause everyone in the world knows his sinker is whats coming 90 % of the time in crucial counts. He WANTS batters to hit the ball ON THE GROUND to his infielder’s so he’s not trying to really fool anyone. Brad’s main problem is his sinker has been inconsistent (not sinking as much), high up in the strikezone (an arm slot problem) getting hit for Gopher balls.

We have alot of impatient Oriole fans who want these young pitchers to be instant 5 year veterans after barely a full season . In 1988 a well known future Hall of famer was 7-17 with a 4.56 era, bad enough in the National league. His name was Tom Glavine whom many compare our Brian Matusz to and some bloggers actually say he’s a bust! RIDICULOUS! Understanding that 13 years of losing has made many myself included rather desperate but we are not the Yankees we can’t l & buy away everyone else’s talent we have to GROW our own & make prudent trades.

I am not sure that a veteran presence in the minor leagues would make that much of a difference. In my opinion, the coaches and management need to make a player by player decision as to where each of these young pitchers will develop best. Sending them to the minors without a development plan that they stick to is wasting everyone’s time. The fact is that each of these guys has been handed an opportunity of a lifetime and with it comes the pressure to perform. So they need to get better or go home. The season is a bust so it makes no difference if Hendrickson, Albers or Koji move back into the starting rotation. Yes Glavine and Halliday went back to the minors to perfect their game. But somewhere they reallized that they needed to work on command, velocity, movement and being efficient on the mound to get hitters out. I still question our minor league coaches in terms of preparing these guys to pitch at this level. I didn’t see any difference in Tillman or Bergeson when they came back from their short stint in the minors. We know that they can get hitters out in AAA. So where are the adjustments.

George is your veteran presence at Norfolk. He’s been a
journeyman pitcher in the minors for yrs. Last season Britton
was at Frederick. Season before, Delmarva. This yr he has
been at Bowie & Norfolk. He needs to stay at AAA this season, & probably 2011 too. O’s need to pick up 2 good
starters. Jeremy should be about a #3 starter. Then the
young guys can vie for the final 2 spots. I like bringing
starters up in the pen first to get rid of the nerves. Then
gradually stretch them out.

George is your veteran presence at Norfolk. He’s been a
journeyman pitcher in the minors for yrs. Last season Britton
was at Frederick. Season before, Delmarva. This yr he has
been at Bowie & Norfolk. He needs to stay at AAA this season, & probably 2011 too. O’s need to pick up 2 good
starters. Jeremy should be about a #3 starter. Then the
young guys can vie for the final 2 spots. I like bringing
starters up in the pen first to get rid of the nerves. Then
gradually stretch them out.

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