Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bullpen Has Helped Carry Orioles So Far

The Orioles' bullpen continues to pitch well in the early days of the season, and is a big reason they remain in first place after two weeks -- surprising most baseball experts.

Manager Dave Trembley was delighted with the performance of right-hander Jim Johnson, who threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of starter Matt Albers in Monday's 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays.

That gives Trembley and the Orioles another weapon to use in a bullpen that's been solid all throughout Spring Training and the early part of the season. Johnson was aggressive in Monday's game, coming right after a strong Blue Jays lineup and allowing just two hits.

"Johnson has been a big surprise for us," Trembley said. "He took an aggressive approach with his fastball and had very good poise."

With Johnson pitching through the first out in the eighth, that let Trembley then match up Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford against a left-hander and right-hander, respectively, to get out of the inning. It was then easy for the skipper to hand the ninth to closer George Sherrill, who picked up his sixth save.

The bullpen could be crucial, as the starting pitching needs time to develop. Albers had been the long man and showed why he started 18 games for Houston last year. That also gives Trembley another weapon for an additional starter spot if need be, especially when games run together.

If necessary, Trembley will again turn to his bullpen with confidence on Tuesday, when the O's will close a two-game set with the Jays behind starter Steve Trachsel, who lasted 6 1/3 innings in his last start.

Pitching matchup
BAL: RHP Steve Trachsel (1-1, 3.00 ERA)
Trachsel has pitched effectively and averaged six innings in his first two starts this season. The Orioles need his veteran help on the mound and in the clubhouse.

TOR: RHP Shaun Marcum (1-0, 2.57 ERA)
Marcum has been one of Toronto's top pitchers so far. He's been powerful, striking out 16 and walking only two in his first two starts.

The Orioles have had problems getting hits with runners in scoring position in recent games. They went 2-for-11 in that area in Monday's 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays. ... Everyone in the starting lineup reached base in Monday's victory. ... Albers (2-0) now has allowed just one run in 11 1/3 innings this year. He picked up the win on Monday in his first start of the season. ... Trembley wasn't worried about the cut on Jay Payton's leg that the outfielder suffered when being tagged out in the eighth inning, saying it probably wouldn't need stitches.


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