The Other Guys in the 2011 Pen | The Process Report

The Other Guys in the 2011 Pen

By R.J. Anderson //

Ricky Orta is a 25-year-old (26 in November) who has never thrown a pitch in the Rays’ system. The last time he pitched in a regular season game in the minors came in 2009 with the Seattle Mariners’ organization. He is a six-foot-two righty who spent most of his minor league career as a starting pitcher before transitioning to the bullpen last year. He’s currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, meaning he’s done for this season and could miss part of next year.

Orta has always pitched to strong strikeout rates and the move to the pen cut down on his home run rates significantly. He throws a fastball that can perk up to the mid-90s and supposedly has a pretty mean slider. Before his injury, there was a decent chance Orta would appear in the major leagues this season, perhaps in that alternate history he’s already debuted and filled the vacancy left behind by a Shawn Kelley who happens to be a similar pitcher.

Next up is Matt Bush. Everyone knows his story and everyone is anxious about exactly what the future holds for Bush. He’s only appeared in 10 games this season, pitching 13.2 innings while striking out 20 and walking three. Bush stands at five-foot-nine yet can still pump a radar gun. The Rays are taking their time with him and why not? He had only thrown seven innings in the minor leagues before this season. White Sox reliever Sergio Santos has proven quick transitions can be made, though, and that is why Bush might be a 2011 pen candidate.

24-year-old Sergio Espinosa is remarkably less sexy. He is a southpaw who has pitched out of the pen 27 times this season with mostly good results. His Double-A experience has yielded a 2.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio and he’s been a little homer prone, but each of those homers have come against righties. Versus lefties he’s allowed a high rate, but shown better command and punch-out ability. He throws in the low-90s with a breaking ball. That combination generally means success will come against lefties with some struggles against good righty hitters. The jump from Double-A to the majors isn’t a huge one for relievers to make, especially for someone who probably profiles as a lefty specialist.

I think it’s fair to say Matt Gorgen was sexier this time a year ago then he is now. He’s adjusted better during his first full season in Double-A and his numbers likely warrant a promotion to begin next year, but he’s not quite the super-elite future closer material everyone hoped he’d continue to look like out of the lower leagues. Gorgen relies on a fastball in the 90s with good sink and a slider; that lefties tag him better is of little surprise.

Come opening day 2011, don’t be shocked if at least one of these guys is entering in relief.

(Note: Winston Abreu, R.J. Swindle, Joe Bateman, Heath Rollins, and Paul Phillips are probably in the discussion too. As are a number of starting pitchers, but they’ve all had extensive coverage in the past.)

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