O's move Olson, Sarfate to bullpen
Struggling starters will work as relievers for rest of season
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles cleared out 40 percent of their rotation on Monday, when they announced that both Garrett Olson and Dennis Sarfate will pitch out of the bullpen for the foreseeable future. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said he's not sure who will take their place, and he seemed to believe he didn't really have a choice in the matter.
"I think I had to do something to be fair to the team and to be fair to Olson," he said. "Olson needs to get some success and be put in a situation that's not as stressful and pressure-packed as it would appear it's been for him his last three starts."
That much is indisputable, and the trail goes back way further than three starts. Olson worked to an 8.77 ERA in July and an 8.68 mark in August before Trembley reached the breaking point, and Sarfate's been on a shorter leash. The right-hander pitched to a 10.34 ERA and didn't make it out of the fifth inning in any of his four starts as an Oriole.
The problem, at least as far as Trembley is concerned, is that there aren't many other options. Baltimore lost Adam Loewen to injury and removed Steve Trachsel and Brian Burres for ineffective pitching, leaving just two members of the original rotation. Olson and Sarfate both got their chance to fill in, and both expressed relief at the change in assignments.
"I think it's a good move, I think it's a smart move," said Sarfate. "I'm not thinking I'm out of the rotation because I did terrible or anything like that. I'm just taking it as, 'I got my work in and I feel more comfortable now facing hitters.' I think it's going to help me for the rest of this year and going into next year as a bullpen guy by just commanding the strike zone."
"To me, anytime a manager shows he has confidence in you -- whether you're struggling or not -- it means a lot," Olson said. "It has been in the back of my mind that I haven't been doing my job. I tried to make adjustments, it's just being consistent has been hard this year. I've showed brief blips of it, but I need to have it more, especially to help the team out."
Trembley preferred to have Olson in the bullpen for the next few days, explaining that he could use the extra arm to help spell his beleaguered 'pen. And he admitted that Baltimore has already leveraged much of its pitching depth. The Orioles have used 10 starters this season, and two of them -- Burres and Radhames Liz -- are at Triple-A Norfolk.
Another candidate, perpetually injured prospect Hayden Penn, is out with a shoulder injury and probably won't be available for the rest of the year. Possible candidates include Norfolk's sidearm starter Andy Mitchell and Double-A arms like Brad Bergesen and David Hernandez, but Trembley has expressed reluctance before to dip down two levels.
"I've thought about a lot of different scenarios," he said of his current predicament. "But because I extended Fernando Cabrera yesterday to three [innings], I extended [Lance] Cormier [and] I pitched [Jamie] Walker two innings, I need some help in the bullpen the next couple nights. Until we get through this series [against] Boston, we'll keep what we have here, and then on Wednesday, I might have something more for you. I don't think anything has been finally decided."
The bottom line is that the Orioles won't need a fourth starter until Friday and won't need a fifth until next week, which allowed Trembley to make his unorthodox move. He felt he needed to do something now, and he went out of his way to say that neither Sarfate nor Olson would start in any arrangement except an emergency.
And to Sarfate, who makes his living with a power fastball, the news couldn't have come at a better time.
"I'm glad I'm going back to the 'pen," he said. "I've kind of missed those guys. I missed the conversations, but most of all, I think that's going to be me in the future. Once I get to the point where I'm not walking guys, I'm attacking hitters and I'm at the top of my game, I'm going to be a closer-type guy with my stuff. I take it as a working thing to get me where I need to be."
With Olson, it's more about getting him to settle down and work to the full measure of his potential.
"I don't know if he's lost confidence so much as the fact that he's just as beside himself as we are," Trembley said of Olson, perhaps his most cerebral pitcher. "He works very hard in between starts. His preparation is very good. He had two good starts -- against Seattle and the time before that he pitched very good. Since then, he didn't get past the third or fourth I don't think. So, what -- 20-some starts -- and I don't know how many quality ones. So we need to try to help him, and that's what we're going to try and do -- try to put him in a situation that may be a little more beneficial to him and the team."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.