O's bullpen grows a Bierd
Baltimore selects reliever from Detroit system in Rule 5 Draft
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Orioles took a low-risk decision at the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, when they selected right-handed reliever Randor Bierd from the Tigers organization. Bierd, who has never pitched above the Double-A level, is expected to provide depth in Spring Training and could compete for a spot in Baltimore's volatile bullpen.
Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, said Bierd's arm made him an interesting choice.
"It's about trying to add as many arms to the inventory as you can," MacPhail said. "I think what appealed to our guys was command, sinks the ball, good velocity, good downward plane -- [he was] definitely worthy of a risk."
Bierd thrived in his second full season as a reliever, notching a 3-2 record and a 3.35 ERA for Double-A Erie. He struck out more batters (52) than he allowed baserunners (41) at that level, displaying a dominant streak that he hadn't shown previously in his brief Minor League career. According to the men who watched him closely, it wasn't a fluke.
"Bierd was [No.] 41 on our list. We only had 40 spots," said Detroit president and general manager Dave Dombrowski. "He was our bubble guy. We liked him, but we had to make a decision."
Matt Walbeck, Bierd's manager at Double-A and now a third-base coach for the Rangers, added his own perspective.
"It just seemed like whenever we saw him pitch, he was striking guys out and making well-located pitches. I'm happy for him to get an opportunity in the Major Leagues," said Walbeck. "I think that he could definitely help a Major League team out in the bullpen. He's got good stuff, good leverage, a Major League pitcher's body. We saw a lot of positive things."
Walbeck went on to say that Bierd established himself quickly at Erie after spending some time at Class A West Michigan. Using his managerial knowledge and former big league experience as a catcher, Walbeck reviewed Bierd's skills.
"Electric fastball, sharp slider," Walbeck said. "He's a high-energy guy, an emotional guy. ... Sometimes that works to his advantage and sometimes it's to his detriment. He can get Major League hitters out with his stuff."
At any rate, the Orioles don't need to make a big sacrifice to evaluate his future. Rule 5 Draft picks cost $50,000, and if the team elects not to keep the prospect, he has to be offered back to his former team for $25,000. The only catch is if the team does elect to keep the prospect, he must remain on the active roster (or disabled list) all season.
"I think this was vetted by our guys over the last two weeks," said MacPhail. "Obviously, you need to get the manager involved. He needs to sort of buy in, because you don't have any flexibility with this player if he sticks with you. The manager is going to be involved in the process, embrace it, understand it and feel like that guy can fit in."
The Orioles didn't lose anyone in the Rule 5 Draft, but they did add to their Minor League depth later in the day. Baltimore selected southpaw Ryan Rodriguez and first baseman Tim Brown in the Triple-A phase and right-handed pitcher J.P. Martinez in the Double-A phase.
Rodriguez, a former fourth-round Draft pick, has a 37-39 record and a 4.61 ERA during his five-year Minor League career. He's started 107 of his 131 appearances, but just 21 of those have come above the Class A level.
Brown has a .275 career batting average and a .391 on-base percentage in seven seasons, and he hit 13 homers in 2007 for San Antonio, the Double-A affiliate of the Rangers.
Martinez, who came from Minnesota's organization, pitched at three different levels last season. For his career, Martinez has a 16-14 record and a 3.01 ERA. The former ninth-round pick has relieved in 165 of his 167 appearances.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporter Jason Beck also contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.