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RHP Rodrigo Lopez moved to bullpen
ITW speculated that this would happen when Hayden Penn was recalled as the rosters expanded in September. Of course, it didn't take any serious analysis to see that Lopez's 5.97 ERA had little place in a major league rotation. His 122:50 K:BB ratio in just over 173 innings is roughly in line with his previous seasons, but Lopez has seen a dramatic rise in his home runs allowed rate to 1.56 per nine innings. He's certainly seen his fair share of bad luck, but it's hard to excuse that many home runs.
Orioles fans can hope that a return to the bullpen inspires Lopez to pitch more like he did in the early part of 2004, but he's unlikely to return to Baltimore next year anyway. Lopez certainly won't be offered arbitration, where he would likely receive a nominal raise on his current $3.75 million contract. It is possible, however, if he shows a renewed aptitude in his new role, that the Orioles would make him a lesser offer to avoid the arbitration process. Lopez might be interested, since he is unlikely to get the kind of opportunities elsewhere that he has received in Baltimore. And he certainly won't be getting any lucrative multi-year offers on the free agent market.
As for Ardoin, most fans will hardly notice his absence. I'm not convinced he's any less useful than Chris Widger, whose recovering shoulder made this move possible, but it's not like Ardoin was a building block for 2007 or anything. He's often shown power and patience in the minors but has been unable to transfer it to the major leagues in multiple attempts. Now at 32 years old, Ardoin should be getting used to this process. At least he had one hit in his thirteen at bats with the Orioles, lest he become a favrite target of message boards everywhere.
Rleal's re-emergence is somewhat of a surprise. His 14:5 K:BB ratio since his demotion to AAA Ottawa is adequate, but his four homeruns allowed in that short span and 6.65 ERA are reminiscent of the Rleal that O's fans became all too acclimated with earlier this season. Hopefully, he will hit a hot stretch and push his season strikeout total up past his season base on ball total.
Brian Burres was on the short list of people that were surprisingly left off of the Orioles' September call-up list. He's a lefty that was claimed off of waivers from the San Francisco Giants before the 2006 season. Burres has filled in nicely for the Lynx rotation; sporting 110 strikeouts, 57 base on balls, and only 14 homeruns allowed in 139 innings. At 25 years old, Burres is seeing his first action at the AAA level this year, but he's made steady progress through each stop since being drafted in the 31st round of the 2000 draft. He normally operates in the 90-91 MPH range with his fastball, with a solid curveball and decent change. Burres actually sported a reverse platoon split this year, but one season's worth of platoon split data is hardly indicative of a need to restrict his future role. In the end, it wouldn't be unheard of for him to stick at the back-end of the Orioles' rotation, but he'll have to wait for several other members of the youth movement to try and fail first. What Burres does provide immediately is a versatile arm for the bullpen and the Orioles would be wise to make it a point to give him as many innings as possible as the season winds down. Burres is exactly the type of free talent find that should be rewarded with an audition for the 2007 bullpen.