Wednesday, March 28, 2007

From College to the 'Pen?

It looks more and more like a certain pitcher who pitched last year in college is going to be added to the 40-man roster, and brought north to Seattle. Evidently, there's a need for an extra arm in the bullpen -- one that will be effective, since the other 'pen arms had pretty shaky Springs. Even with the talk that they weren't going to rush players like they did last year, it seems that was merely double-speak.

I've been pretty clear that I side with those who would prefer to have Morrow in the minors getting a little more seasoning, and trying to find a fungible reliever for the 'pen on the scrap heap. But today's game reminded me that, just like in Return of the Jedi when Vader realizes Luke has a sibling, there is an alternative within the M's system that could make sense to plug the perceived hole in the bullpen. No, I'm not talking about Morrow's sister -- I have no clue whether or not he even has a sister, but I'm confident that if he does, she's not pitching in the M's minor leagues.

In some ways, I'm a little ashamed for not having thought of this sooner. But, hey, it hadn't really crossed my mind that the M's might seriously consider bringing one of their 2006 draftees up to Seattle to start 2007. That in & of itself threw me for enough of a loop, that
I'd completely forgotten another option that, like Morrow, was drafted in 2006 out of college. In his pro time, too, he's breezed thorough his innings. Unlike Morrow, however, he truly was drafted to develop as a relief pitcher.

I thought I might be able to wait just a little bit longer to say this, but in the USSM discussion on today's roster news and informal game thread, I had to say it when he came in to clean up Mumba Rivera's mess -- which had become officially a save situation:

Free Austin Bibens-Dirkx.

I know there's no chance in heck that it happens. I doubt that Austin has caught Hargrove's eye like Brandon has. I’m not necessarily saying that Austin is ready for the bigs, nor that he's as ready or more ready than Brandon, but I would say that there’s a lot more evidence that suggests Bibens-Dirkx is at least as ready than Morrow is. Churchill said today on Softy’s show that Austin was hitting 90-94 (11:15-11:20 into the Real Audio clip), which, from a sidearmer is even more rare than 96-98 from a ‘normal’ pitcher. Then there's the fact that he has 3x the pro innings/appearances that Morrow does. While he didn’t come out of the Pac-10, he still pitched in college, and pretty much blew through A ball last year. He's also shown quite a decent amount of control, and in his 2-inning stint in AAA (where I saw him pitch in person), he struck out 5 Portland Beavers. What, two weeks after being drafted? Yeeesh.

The difference is in the fact that Morrow is a flamethrower, and Bibens-Dirkx is a 'mere' sidearmer, drafted 450 or so dudes later, and therefore hasn’t received the royal treatment or caught the eye of Hargrove. But, while I can probably lay claim to being the first Austin Bibens-Dirkx fan in the blogosphere, I'm certainly not alone. I know Churchill's a fan -- as evidenced by the clip from Monday's KJR show and other reasons -- I just would like to see a lot more of the M's decision makers think outside the box a little and see that Austin might not be a bad option to take north with them.

It's probably a little late in Spring Training, and I'd say it's definitely not happening. Still, I'd much rather risk rushing Bibens-Dirkx, whose MLB career is destined towards the bullpen, than risk delaying Morrow's development as an MLB starter -- or risk him being pigeonholed into the bullpen. Bringing Austin up would be a medium-to-high-risk, medium-reward move, while bringing Morrow up would be a high-risk, medium-to-high-reward move -- at best. I'd say that both guys would likely help fill some perceived holes in the bullpen. I'd just go a little more conservative, perhaps, and take Austin over Brandon.

But, then, I also wouldn't've traded Soriano for Ramirez to create this 'mess' in the first place...

Final note -- it's also pretty apparent that George Sherrill has made the club, in spite of yet another shaky spring. I'm planning on making a side trip over to the 'pen to congratulate him on Monday.


At 3/29/2007 8:24 AM, Blogger Graham MacAree said...

Yeah, good call on A-BD there. If anything, his funky mechanics will make him harder to hit than Morrow, which should make the transition easier.

I worry that he'd be used as a ROOGY though, motions like his tend to get destroyed by left handed batters. You've seen him, though, soI'd guess you know better.

At 3/29/2007 9:03 AM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

Here's the thing, though. Yeah, it's just one season, and you don't really get a good idea about this until players have a few seasons behind them. For 2006, though, he actually fared BETTER vs. lefties than he did righties. I don't have Austin's college stats, but from what I understand from his mom, his splits in the minors so far shouldn't be surprising. He's always handled lefties just fine, too.

At 3/29/2007 9:37 AM, Blogger marc w. said...

Even if he's used as a ROOGY, that'd be better than using Morrow as either a set-up man or a long-reliever.
The M's have actually been OK at giving relievers the occasional shot at stepping outside their role, hence GS52 got a save and faced the odd righty or two last year.

I'm just hoping A-BD ends up in Tacoma so I can go see him. If he's opening eyes this spring, I suppose that's not entirely wishful thinking.

At 3/29/2007 2:51 PM, Blogger jason said...

worse than not even being noticed - churchill mentions today that there's talk of austin being sent to high desert. he at least deserves a shot at starting out in tennessee.

At 3/29/2007 8:36 PM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

Yeah, I read that, too. I'm really surprised he's not going to get a bump up to AA. He's proven that A-ball isn't really much of a challenge for him. The High Desert environment, though, might be a bit worrisome. It'll surely test his fly ball nature...

At 4/04/2007 8:34 PM, Blogger karen bibens said...

What does Roogy mean? As for Austin going to High Desert, I know he would rather be in Tennessee but I also know that he will work hard to get to Tennessee or Tacoma no matter where he is sent first.

At 4/04/2007 10:33 PM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

Hey Karen!

Roogy stands for "Righty One Out Guy" -- similar to "LOOGY" which is for lefties.

Being sent to High Desert, for a pitcher anyway, is almost like being sent to Hades. It'll be a challenge for Austin, I'm sure, but I'm confident that he'll do fine. Besides, getting to the big leagues is not easy. STAYING in the bigs is even harder. He'll need the seasoning. It's part of the on-the-job training.

But in every game that Julio Mateo enters, you'll hear my "Free Austin!" cheers.


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