Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Little Big League

Last night, the first of a bevy of talented young pitchers, Brad Bergesen, impressed Oriole fans in his Major League debut. I was tremendously excited to get my first glimpse of the future, and even kept a running diary of his first start. Since Bergesen was so successful, the conversation has naturally turned to when we'll get to see Chris Tillman, David Hernandez, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and other young pitchers. After all, it's not like the guys currently in the rotation are really performing adequately. Besides, what harm could come in at least getting the fans excited, right? Peter Schmuck:
Everybody, me included, wants to see these kids as soon as it makes sense for both them and the team, but there is plenty to lose if it doesn't [work out]. There are all kinds of examples of top pitching prospects who came up too soon and had either
their arms or their psyches damaged before they could reach their full potential.

We all know 2009 is a bridge season. The hopelessness of the last decade is gone, but the team hasn't quite fully emerged from the Tunnel of Darkness to the sunny lands of Contender Meadows. There is still work to be done, and just because Brad Bergesen met expecations doesn't mean we should throw The Plan out the window. Remember, we suspected all along that Bergesen was ready and that he would be in the Baltimore rotation in short order. In other words, things are going according to The Plan, not ahead of it.

I fully subscribe to the idea that the Orioles actually have better pitchers--not just more talented ones, actually better ones--in the minor leagues than in the Major Leagues, but that does not mean they should all be starting in Baltimore every five days. Young pitchers are fragile beings, especially when rushed--just look at Hayden Penn and Adam Loewen. Allowing them to develop in the minors, where it is much easier to control pitch counts, workloads, and definitions of success can be just as valuable as experience against Major League hitters. Is there a learning curve associated with the jump from the minors to the Majors? Absolutely. But making sure these guys are ready to tackle that learning curve is MacPhail's job one right now. If he deems them ready in June or July, that's perfectly fine. But just because we see the 2009 Major League season slipping away and Brad Bergesen made an excellent debut, does not mean the careful planning should be thrown out the window. It just means everything is pretty much as we expected it to be two months ago.

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