May 25, 2010, 11:42 AM EDT
Later today Alfredo Simon will likely become the third Orioles closer to land on the disabled list, joining Mike Gonzalez and Jim Johnson on the shelf after injuring his hamstring covering first base Sunday.
Koji Uehara would have gotten the nod to fill in, except he’s also headed to the DL with a strained forearm. Baltimore didn’t exactly have great bullpen depth even before all the injuries hit, and with five relievers out Will Ohman and Cla Meredith are suddenly atop the depth chart.
Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com guesses that Ohman will “move into the majority of save situations, given that he’s been the Orioles most reliable reliever and, according to manager Dave Trembley earlier this week, would relish the role.” Ohman has a 0.00 ERA in 15 innings this season, so they might as well give him first crack at ninth-inning duties, but he’s also a 32-year-old who had a 4.25 career ERA prior to 2010.
Triple-A closer Frank Mata is expected to join the mix soon, but aside from his save total at Norfolk there’s little to suggest he has a bright future as a late-inning option. Mata didn’t reach Triple-A until this season despite being 26 years old, in large part because he had a 4.92 ERA and terrible 110/74 K/BB ratio in 157 innings at Double-A.
Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun speculates that David Hernandez could be shifted from the rotation to the bullpen, which is perhaps the most interesting scenario. Hernandez has struggled as a starter, going 5-15 with a 5.39 ERA, but a mid-90s fastball and high strikeout totals in the minors suggest he could thrive as a one-inning reliever. Plus, bumping Hernandez from the rotation could lead to the Orioles calling up Chris Tillman or fellow top prospect Jake Arieta.
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