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Braves scratch bullpen itch (cont.)

Posted: Friday January 19, 2007 4:18PM; Updated: Friday January 19, 2007 4:37PM
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The Tribe picked up Joe Borowski, who saved 36 games for the Marlins last season.
The Tribe picked up Joe Borowski, who saved 36 games for the Marlins last season.
Eliot J. Schecter/Getty Images
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Still, it's not only teams who are shying away from high-priced starters who have decided to bolster their bullpens this winter. Even teams with solid rotations already in place realize the value of a good bullpen -- and the danger in having a bad one. Nobody knows that more than the Braves.

"I don't know that, after what we experienced ... last year, that you ever have enough bullpen," Schuerholz said. "This bullpen, especially the back end of it, is as strong as it's ever been. We have good reason to believe that we won't have to endure what we did, especially in the first half of last year."

Here's a quick look at the three teams that have gone through the most extreme bullpen makeovers since the end of the 2006 season:

Atlanta Braves
The Braves' first step in solidifying the bullpen was signing Wickman to an extension last September. In December, Schuerholz traded lefty starter Horacio Ramirez for hard-throwing setup man Rafael Soriano, formerly of Seattle. And the Braves finalized a trade Friday for Pittsburgh closer Mike Gonzalez, a hard-throwing lefty. That gives manager Cox two solid setup men to get to closer Wickman, and two guys who can, potentially, step into Wickman's role should he stumble.

Cleveland Indians
Cleveland struggled to find a reliable combination in the bullpen last season, especially after trading Wickman to the Braves. Now they have a load of possibilities, after signing free agents Foulke, Joe Borowski and Roberto Hernandez. All three have extensive closing experience, though the Indians say they'll probably go with either Foulke or Borowski first, leaving Hernandez (who has 326 saves in his career) as the setup man. The Tribe also signed Aaron Fultz as a lefty specialist.

Baltimore Orioles
Nobody spent more money on relievers than the O's did. Where the Braves went mostly with trades, and the Indians looked for cheaper options, the Orioles spent $12 million on a three-year contract for lefty Walker and $19 million on a three-year deal for Baez. They've also added sidearmer Chad Bradford and former rookie of the year Scott Williamson -- both free agents. All of them will be there to support closer Chris Ray.

More rambles on 'roids

I have a couple of comments after reading George Mitchell's address to owners Thursday concerning his ongoing investigation into the use of steroids in the game. First, let's hear from the former senator...

"As you know, many of those we've interviewed so far are employees of the 30 Major League clubs," Mitchell said in his prepared remarks to an owners' meeting in Phoenix. "I assure you, however, that we also have interviewed a large number of other witnesses, including many formerly associated with baseball. Quite a few of these persons have been extremely helpful. These persons love the game and want to do all they can to remove this cloud."

What's that mean? Mitchell wasn't commenting to reporters afterward, but these remarks seem to indicate that, after nearly a year on the job, Mitchell is finally getting somewhere. He has something of substance. Or at least you hope that's the case. Please please please please please ...

"The pace of this investigation is dictated by the rate at which information is received," Mitchell told the owners. "As I said when I spoke to you last year, that depends on you, and on others from whom I'm seeking information. I don't have subpoena power. Unlike the Congress, or other federal and state authorities, I cannot compel cooperation. They can, and if they get involved they will."

I talked to a major-league coach last year who had been interviewed by Mitchell's people. He was practically dismissive about the entire process. He told me that he said nothing of substance to the investigators because he didn't believe they had any power to do anything about it. He thought it was all a scam.

I'm not sure how many people in the game think that way. But it's clear, from Mitchell's remarks, that plenty of them are putting up a wall. It's also clear, from Mitchell's veiled threats, that he's not going take it much longer.

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