Reitsma and Rhodes reassigned; bullpen questions linger
The M’s told Chris Reitsma that he wouldn’t be making the opening day roster today, so he’s now deciding whether he wants to head to Tacoma or become a free agent (technically, he doesn’t have the contractual right to do this, but the M’s aren’t going to hold him hostage). I’m hoping for the latter, so the M’s won’t ever be tempted by his veteranocity and give him a role he doesn’t deserve down the line.
So, with Reitsma out of the picture, the bullpen picture becomes a bit clearer, but questions remain. Here’s what we know:
J.J. Putz works the 9th inning in games where the M’s lead by 3 runs or less.
Sean Green and Eric O’Flaherty will work the 7th and 8th innings of close games.
R.A. Dickey will be the mopup guy when the game gets out of hand.
That leaves several holes, with roster spots going to three of Brandon Morrow, Mark Lowe, Arthur Rhodes, Ryan-Rowland Smith, and Cha Seung Baek, assuming the M’s go with a 12 man pitching staff again. I’d call that very likely at this point, especially considering Morrow’s questionable status.
If we assume that Morrow is healthy enough to start the year on the active roster, he’s in for one of the spots. Depending on how he performs, he’d likely start the year in the 7th inning right-hander role with a chance to overtake Green for the 8th inning role if he figures out how to throw strikes with regularity.
So that leaves two spots. Rhodes thinks he’s ready, but the organization doesn’t seem to agree (edit: They told him he’s not making the club on opening day, so looks were right in this case), if you take their public comments at face value. However, with O’Flaherty the only lefty in the pen, it’s a lock that he or Rowland-Smith will make the team, as I can’t fathom John McLaren being willing to only take one lefty into the season. The two southpaws are fighting for one spot, and my gut says it goes to Rowland-Smith.
That leaves one spot for Cha Seung Baek or Mark Lowe. If they choose Lowe, they lose Baek, as he’s out of options and there is zero chance he’ll clear waivers. If they choose Baek, they can send Lowe to Tacoma and keep both in the organization. That would seemingly give Baek a big advantage, but the coaches aren’t convinced that Baek profiles well as a reliever and, with Morrow’s effectiveness in doubt, they’d like another power right-hander on the staff if he struggles early. So, Lowe fits the profile of the pitcher they would prefer, and that neutralizes the option scenario, making it a tough call.
I’m guessing the team ends up going with Baek, at least for the first two games. If Morrow struggles in the opening series against Texas, Lowe could be on the flight to Baltimore while they’d hope they could sneak Baek through waivers just a couple days into the season.
So, my gut feeling on the opening day bullpen: Putz, Green, O’Flaherty, Morrow, Rowland-Smith, Baek, and Dickey. This, of course, assumes the M’s don’t make any moves to bring in someone from outside the organization. If they do, may I suggest David Aardsma? Boston might not have room for him, and he’s basically Morrow’s equal at this point, with the added benefit of being able to get lefties out.
It’s certainly not the strength it has been in previous years, and getting to J.J. could be a little bit hairy this year.