Liz enters mix for relief role


Middle innings targeted

8 still in hunt for 3 rotation slots

March 17, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly | Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly, and

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Radhames Liz became the latest Oriole to drop out of the competition for one of three open spots in the rotation as the club decided that his future is likely in the bullpen.

Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz informed Liz, 25, of the decision yesterday morning in Fort Lauderdale. The organization's one-time top pitching prospect will have an opportunity to make the Opening Day roster as a reliever.

"I don't think it's ever for good. You never say never," Kranitz said. "But I think at this particular time with our needs, his quality of pitches, he'll be able to handle that middle part of the game in the sixth and seventh innings. It's not rocket science. He's got to come in and throw the ball over the dish. It will be a lot easier for him in one-inning spurts, where he can kind of let it go."

Liz, who has a 21-18 record and a 3.39 ERA in 87 minor league starts, has struggled to make the transition to the majors, going 6-8 with a 6.77 ERA in 26 appearances (21 starts) over the past two seasons with the Orioles.

Now it's likely that if he doesn't make the 25-man roster, he'll be pitching out of the bullpen - for the first time in his minor league career - this April at Triple-A Norfolk.

"That would probably be what will happen," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I would say there is a good chance of that occurring. For a number of reasons: One, it probably will be best for him. And, two, there is going to be a backup of starters at Triple-A."

Liz has fixed some of the problems with his mechanics, but he still struggled this spring, compiling a 5.87 ERA in four appearances, including one start.

"I feel pretty comfortable with that," Liz said about the decision. "I think I've got a better chance to make the team in the bullpen, but ... I think I can do both things, be a reliever or a starter. I feel like this is going to get me more of a chance to stay comfortable with the pressure and get used to the big leagues. Maybe in the future I can start again."

With Liz out of the competition, the Orioles are left with eight pitchers - Danys Baez, Brian Bass, Brad Bergesen, Adam Eaton, Mark Hendrickson, Rich Hill, David Pauley and Hayden Penn - vying for the three open rotation spots.

Relief for Waters, too

Trembley said left-hander Chris Waters, who made 11 starts for the Orioles last season, is also likely out of the rotation competition. He was brought in against the Boston Red Sox in the middle of Sunday's game, and Trembley said he is probably competing for a middle-relief role now.

"I think Kranny has been honest with Waters," Trembley said. "That's why we brought him in yesterday out of the bullpen and tried to match him up against some left-handed hitters. I think there are other [potential starters] ahead of him right now."

Missing Wieters

Fans aren't the only ones who wished Orioles prospect Matt Wieters had made the trip here to play the Minnesota Twins yesterday.

"I was hoping he would be here," said Joe Mauer, Minnesota's All-Star catcher. "A lot of people are excited to see him, and I am one of them."

Around the horn

A day after throwing from the mound for the first time in two weeks, Hill said he feels great and remains on schedule to throw a bullpen session today. ... Koji Uehara (hamstring strain) said through his interpreter that he jogged yesterday and believes he'll be ready for Opening Day if he can get three spring starts. ... Outfielder Felix Pie left his jersey in Fort Lauderdale and had to wear No. 97 in yesterday's game.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.