- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2007

VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Kirt Birkins understands the math, which doesn’t favor the Baltimore Orioles’ left-handed reliever.

There are perhaps two spots open for left-handers in the Baltimore bullpen and three southpaws competing for the job. With the season opener at Minnesota on April 2 looming, Birkins knows the odds are stacked against him making the Orioles’ 25-man roster.

“It’s a tough equation,” said Birkins, 26. “I’m just doing what they tell me to do. If I’m on the list to go pitch, I go. Not necessarily as much as I’d like, again, because there’s only a certain amount of innings to go around. But I just come in every day to try to do my best to get that spot.”

Left-hander Jamie Walker, a free agent whose signing started a $42 million bullpen makeover, will be one of the left-handers in the bullpen. Lefty John Parrish appears to have the inside track on the other spot.

But manager Sam Perlozzo doesn’t want to give the impression that his pitching staff is set — not with 10 days remaining in spring training.

“It’s one of the first things I told the ballclub when I got here this year: Don’t make the mistake and think you’ve got the team made and do not make a mistake and think you don’t have a chance,” Perlozzo said before yesterday’s 8-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Whether the Orioles take 12 or 13 pitchers north will play into how Perlozzo configures his bullpen. The relief corps is currently stacked with pitchers best suited to pitch one inning — and that could handicap Perlozzo and boost Birkins’ stock.

“If the guys we think are supposed to make the club are all one-inning guys, then that’s not going to work,” Perlozzo said. “You’re going to have to make an adjustment to get another guy up there to give you some innings. Otherwise you’ll blow your bullpen out, and that’ll have a carry-over effect for days.”

Birkins could factor into Perlozzo’s decision because of his durability. A starter at Class AAA last year, Birkins was used exclusively in relief by the Orioles, compiling a 5-2 record with a 4.94 ERA in 31 appearances covering 31 innings.

His season ended Aug. 1 when Birkins was diagnosed with left elbow neuritis.

“They know who I am. They know what I’m capable of doing,” he said. “It’s a little more relaxing. I don’t come out with all that pressure on me. Last spring, I was trying to get my name mentioned a few times. Now, knowing that they know my name, it’s a little bit of weight off my shoulders.”

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