Baltimore Orioles: The Best and Worst of Buck Showalter's Final Roster Decisions
It seems like it took forever, but Buck Showalter has finally cut the Baltimore Orioles roster down to 25 players.
The seemingly endless list of potential starting pitchers has been narrowed to just five. The bullpen is built. The bench has been dug deep. It's game time.
The final roster decisions were fairly predictable when it came down to the last few days, but some of the moves are questionable. There were some really close battles, and some deserving players didn't make the team. On the other hand, some players played their butts off and earned their spots.
Here are the best and worst of Buck's final moves.
Best: Ryan Flaherty
Ryan Flaherty making the Orioles is huge for the player, the team and the state of Maine.
Not many players come from Maine, because it is really cold, but Flaherty defied the odds to make the Orioles roster.
You could say that he had the edge because of his Rule 5 status, but credit Flaherty for working hard to make the club. He outplayed Matt Antonelli and Steve Tolleson.
The best part about Flaherty is his unbelievable versatility. The Orioles had Flaherty play both outfield corners and every position in the infield this spring, so he should be ready to step in anywhere if needed.
Worst: Alfredo Simon
It looked like it would be tough for Alfredo Simon to make the Orioles from the start of camp, so it came as no surprise when the Orioles let him loose.
The big problem now with the Orioles' bullpen is long relief.
Simon stepped in a lot in 2011 to pitch a few innings at a time. He and Berken were the two long men, and they struggled but got the Orioles through some rough outings. I remember Simon bailing out Brian Matusz multiple times as Matusz imploded in 2011.
The Orioles now lack a long reliever.
Troy Patton is the only guy that can fit that role, but he is also the club's only left-handed reliever. Tsuyoshi Wada may have to take that duty after his two tuneup starts.
Simon going to the Reds is a great move because he gets an opportunity. The Reds are also starving for bullpen help, so Simon should fit perfectly.
Best: Nick Johnson
Nick Johnson making the Orioles should already shoot him to the top for Comeback Player of the Year.
Johnson hasn't played a game in the majors since 2010, and he finally seems healthy enough to play. The Orioles are getting a terrific DH if Johnson can stay healthy.
It went by pretty quietly, but Johnson was second on the team this spring in batting average, hitting .292. What's more impressive is he kept his OBP up at .393, which makes him a huge asset for the club.
Many questioned Wilson Betemit as the DH, but Johnson might push his way into the mix for a good number of at-bats. I wouldn't be surprised if he took the job as the starter soon.
Worst: Pat Neshek
This is one of the toughest cuts to see, because Pat Neshek did nothing wrong this spring. In nine innings, Neshek allowed just three hits, striking out eight without a single walk.
The issue with Neshek is that there isn't room on the 40-man roster for him.
He'll go to Norfolk to wait his turn, but he has to show that he is more valuable than one of the 40 guys currently taking a spot, which will be tough.
Another big thing going against Neshek is his delivery. Darren O'Day also pitches sidearm, so Buck may not want to keep two. My dad is mad that the Orioles are even keeping one.
Neshek proved his worth this spring, but lost out to a numbers game. Look for him to be in Baltimore before long.
Best: Brian Matusz
Brian Matusz's 2011 season can be described in so many words: disastrous, abhorrent, disheartening.
That's why things need to turn around in 2012, and it seems like he's right on track.
With his fastball velocity back, Matusz appears poised for a breakout season. The same guy that looked destined for Triple-A before February pitched his way onto the team, and Buck made the right choice to include him.
Things will get interesting when Tsuyoshi Wada returns, but for now, Matusz is fighting his way back to being dominant.
Worst: Wei-Yin Chen
Pause. Take a breath.
Wei-Yin Chen is a terrific choice for the rotation. Chen has the talent to surprise a lot of people this year. I just don't like where he's pitching in the rotation.
The rotation spot doesn't really matter that much. In the end, Chen is pitching against the offense, not the other guy toeing the rubber.
The Twins would have been an easy transition to the majors. No offense to the Twins, but there is no offense to the Twins. Their best bats are Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, who would both be put at a disadvantage since Chen is also left-handed.
That is much better than the Yankees lineup, which will feature Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Derek Jeter and more.
The other issue is the back-to-back lefties in the first two games against the Yankees. Matusz will pitch the series opener, so, in my opinion, Buck should have separated his lefties.
Let Tommy Hunter pitch against the Yankees. Give Chen a softer lineup to ease into the majors.