Burres named Orioles' fifth starter
Manager Trembley also announces key bullpen pieces
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Orioles manager Dave Trembley proved a point Friday, when he punctuated the end of Spring Training by making a few roster decisions. Trembley, who had said all along that he'd take all the time allotted to him, came to a conclusion on his fifth starter and a few bullpen pieces hours before his team headed north for the season.
The Orioles will break camp with Brian Burres as their fifth starter and Matt Albers as a long reliever, a balancing act that Trembley agonized over for most of the spring. Baltimore also saved bullpen slots for Greg Aquino, Dennis Sarfate and Rule 5 Draft pick Randor Bierd, rounding out an inexperienced relief staff chaired by first-year closer George Sherrill.
"[Albers] needs to keep the games close when he comes into games," said Trembley, describing their roles. "I told Aquino he's going to be used to set up and sometimes to close it, because I won't use Sherrill three days in a row. He'll have to go two innings. I told Bierd the same thing and Sarfate. All those guys were told exactly where they're at."
Perhaps the biggest surprise on that list was Bierd, who came to the Orioles as a Rule 5 Draft pick at the Winter Meetings. The right-hander had never pitched above Double-A and had never come to big league Spring Training, but he impressed Trembley and pitching coach Rick Kranitz with a wide-ranging arsenal that's keyed by a deceptively straight changeup.
"I knew nothing about him," said Trembley. "He pitches with confidence and poise, was equally good against right- and left-handed hitters. He came in [for] the beginning of an inning, the middle of an inning, guys on base, back-to-back days."
Trembley went out of his way to congratulate Bierd, and he said the youngster took an extra step of his own. Bierd, with no knowledge of whether he made the team or not, went out Thursday and bought a brand new suit.
"[Bierd] said, 'Yeah, I went yesterday when we got back ... just in case today you called me in and said I'm in the big leagues,' " said Trembley, relaying an anecdote. "I said, 'Well, how about if I called and said you didn't make it?' He said, 'I was going to wear that suit anyway if you sent me to [Double-A] Bowie.'"
"He told me this was the best day of his life today, and that made it all worthwhile for me."
If the Orioles decide at any point that Bierd isn't working out, they'll have to expose him to waivers or offer him back to Detroit, the organization that lost him in the Rule 5 Draft, for $25,000. Aquino and Sarfate have similar situations in that both are out of options and would have to be exposed to waivers if the Orioles don't want to carry them on the 25-man roster.
"It's a relief," said Sarfate. "Everybody's been saying that I'm pretty much a lock, but you never believe it until the end, until you see it. I saw the light, and today when he called me in, it was like, 'OK, now let's go.' It's a great feeling."
Burres, who served as a swingman for the Orioles last season, narrowly edged out Albers for the starting job. Trembley said that decision took nearly all of spring, but he also said that he leaned toward Burres out of familiarity. Albers joined the Orioles this offseason in the Miguel Tejada trade, but Burres has been around since before Trembley joined the staff.
In fact, he'd been around long enough to experience an awkward moment regarding the Opening Day roster. Burres was named to last year's team, but had to be scratched before the season opener due to an injury to catcher Ramon Hernandez. This time, the southpaw's hoping that there won't be any last-minute emergency changes.
"It's always nice to know you're on the Opening Day squad," he said. "Last year was a little bit tough, but it's all good. ... I knew I just had to pitch good and I had a shot, so I was just waiting for him to make up his mind."
Trembley also said that Burres will be skipped the first time through the rotation and listed Daniel Cabrera, Steve Trachsel and Adam Loewen as the team's second through fourth starters. A moment later, though, he said that he ranked the pitchers based on how much rest they'd had and didn't order them in terms of quality or experience.
"The order to me doesn't show that anybody's better than anybody else. ... I don't think our staff is such that guys line up that way," Trembley said of his starting rotation. "We don't have hardly any days off the first 19 games or 20 days or whatever. So let's try to keep as many guys when we break out of this place as close to five days as we can."
Albers, Burres, Sarfate and Bierd will all be on an Opening Day roster for the first time. Burres came close last year but got scratched when Hernandez came down with an oblique ailment and the Orioles needed a new catcher.
Trembley hasn't announced whether Luis Hernandez or Brandon Fahey would be his starting shortstop, but he has said that both will likely make the team -- one as a starter and one as a utility man. The final roster decision will likely come down to the Orioles carrying either designated hitter Jay Gibbons or a reserve player like Scott Moore.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.