Berken up the wrong tree

Jason Berken was pleased with his bullpen session today, his second since reporting to camp.

Berken threw 35 pitches, most of them fastballs. But he also mixed in his changeup and breaking ball.

Earlier this winter, I speculated that Berken or David Hernandez could move to the bullpen as part of the 12-man pitching staff. I'm not as confident in that arrangement now that the Orioles want to keep a left-handed specialist - assuming Will Ohman, Alberto Castillo, Mike Hinckley or Wilfrido Perez earns the job. And now that manager Dave Trembley has been raving about Kam Mickolio since I got here.

Knowing that Trembley called Mickolio three times over the winter and told him "this is your year" makes me believe that the tall right-hander will have to pitch his way off the team. He has a spot waiting for him.

If we're looking at Mickolio, Mike Gonzalez, Jim Johnson, Koji Uehara, Mark Hendrickson and the lefty specialist (I'm predicting Ohman), that leaves one opening in the bullpen. Cla Meredith, Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate are in the mix.

An injury to one of the starters would open the door for Berken or Hernandez if they can't beat out Chris Tillman. Otherwise, they might have to settle for going back into Triple-A Norfolk's rotation, which also could include Jake Arrieta and Troy Patton.

It's a drastic change from last spring, when the Orioles broke camp with Hendrickson, Adam Eaton and Alfredo Simon in their rotation.

They needed a left-hander (Rich Hill was hurt), they needed somebody who could give them innings (that was supposed to be Eaton), they needed somebody who could give them outs (Simon did it late in camp and won a job by default).

They might have another problem this spring, but it's much more pleasant.

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