Although part of the Orioles' mediocrity has been attributed to the bullpen, left-hander Arthur Rhodes has been blame-free of late, establishing himself as perhaps the team's most dependable reliever.
Rhodes, 28, pitched three innings of middle relief in yesterday's 7-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in the series finale. Rhodes allowed just one hit and struck out three, including Shawn Green and Jose Canseco back-to-back in the seventh inning, keeping the game close.
On Friday night, Rhodes also contributed a quality performance with three critical innings in the Orioles' 15-inning, 7-4 win over the Blue Jays, allowing just one hit with three more strikeouts.
"I feel great," said Rhodes, at times hampered by a sore knee and pulled side muscle this season. "I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing, throwing the ball in the strike zone and getting guys out."
What Rhodes also has been doing is getting ahead of hitters, keeping the ball down and effectively mixing his fastball and breaking ball.
"He's just in that great groove that he gets in," said Orioles pitching coach Mike Flanagan. "And the one thing I know about Arthur is that once he gets in it, he stays in it for a long time."
Rhodes has not only gotten into a groove, he has become the Orioles' most durable reliever, leading the league in innings pitched in relief with 53.
Earlier in the year, a pulled muscle in Rhodes' side limited his appearances, but he said it no longer is bothering him.
Rhodes also has really hit stride in June, as he has 23 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings. He also has allowed just two earned runs in his last 22 1/3 innings.
"I think he's been like that all year long," said Orioles reliever Jesse Orosco. "He just had a few bad outings. He's been real aggressive, throwing hard. His breaking ball has been real sharp. He's picking up right where he left off last year."
Last year, Rhodes was 10-3 with a 3.02 ERA, pitching solely in relief. This year, Rhodes is 3-2 and his ERA has fallen to 2.89. He's also notched three saves.
"I felt this good last year," Rhodes said. "I think I've just picked it up a little so that I can put my team in the position to win."