Friday afternoon, the Orioles finally completed the long awaited trade of Rodrigo Lopez. This leaves the Orioles' rotation consisting of Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, Adam Loewen, Kris Benson and Jaret Wright. In case of injury or ineffectiveness (ahem, Kris Benson), Hayden Penn will be a bus trip from Norfolk away from claiming a spot.
In return for Lopez, the Orioles have acquired the rights to 24 year old right-handed relief pitchers Jim Miller and Jason Burch. Neither pitcher is on the 40-man roster.
Miller was an 8th round pick in the 2004 draft out of the University of Luisiana-Monroe. Although he had the arm strength to come out after his junior season, he used his senior year to finish his degree in Mathematics and increase his stock with a solid performance as his team's closer. Miller followed up a sparkling pro debut with a 2005 season that put him on the prospect map to stay.
Miller's 2006 season got off to a rocky start when he suffered an oblique injury on opening day. Because of the injury, he could do little but rest until healthy and it took him halfway through the season to shake off the rust. Miller has always been a pronounced flyball pitcher, but he had excessive problems giving up the longball this year; much of this due to surrendering 5 home runs in 10 June innings.
Miller works with an explosive fastball that sits at 93-94 MPH and has touched as high as 96 MPH. He has a tendency to elevate it in the strike zone, which made him ill-prepared for Coors Field, but he will fit in much better at a neutral field like Camden Yards. Miller also has a curveball, that rates as a solid second pitch. He does not throw a changeup, which hindered him against lefties. Despite a hefty platoon split, Miller has the goods to be a quality set-up man in the long run. He'll start 2007 with Triple-A Norfolk and it may not be long before he makes his major league debut.
Much like Miller, Jason Burch has spent his entire professional career in the bullpen. After being drafted in the 21st round of the 2003 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, Burch was shipped to Colorado in the Larry Walker trade.
Burch's arsenal begins with a very heavy 87-91 MPH fastball. Although he does not have plus velocity, the pitch plays up due to its movement. His slider is a potential plus pitch, breaking two planes and sitting around 80 MPH. Burch will generally try to back-door it to left-handers and get righties to chase it out of the strike zone. In fact, part of his transition in Double-A this season was figuring out that he couldn't get everyone to chase balls out of the strike zone anymore. Burch's changeup is a solid third pitch with similar downward movement to his fastball that keeps him from having platoon issues. Lauded for his work ethic, Burch should make the necessary adjustments to dominate in a return engagement to Double-A or try his hand at Triple-A hitters. He profiles as a get-out-of-a-jam groundballer on the low end, or a solid 7th inning set-up man on the high end.
Notes: The Orioles also re-signed Todd Williams to a one year contract. Williams, 9-9 a 3.72 ERA in 163 appearances over the past three seasons, is expected to compete for a low-leverage role in the bullpen.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The WArehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com