ARLINGTON -- The Orioles have gotten outstanding work out of their bullpen in the first week of the season, and Baltimore manager Dave Trembley is reaching for ways to keep that trend rolling. Trembley said on Tuesday that he's considering going to a 13-man pitching staff at some point so he can make sure he doesn't wear out his relievers.
"I thought about it in Spring Training and I'm still thinking about it now, because I don't want to overburden the guys," he said. "I don't want to use guys three or four days in a row, which I will stay away from. I don't want to get guys up and not bring them in the game. But really, that question will be answered depending on how your starting pitchers do."
Baltimore's rotation has faltered in the first week, handing the bullpen a greater load than expected. The starters have completed six innings in just two of their first six games, but the relief staff has managed to hold steady. Baltimore's bullpen racked up an 0.84 ERA in its first six games and has earned the victory in four of the team's five wins.
Trembley has been pleasantly surprised with the unit's work, but he knows they'll get exposed if they keep working so hard. The Orioles had a similar fast start last year and wound up pitching to the highest relief ERA in franchise history. This time, Trembley wants to find a way to spread innings around and keep everyone fresh for the entire season.
"If your starting pitchers take you [deep] -- like [Jeremy] Guthrie did the other day or even [Daniel] Cabrera yesterday gave us six -- I think you're OK," he said. "I said the other day, at least two out of five, you need your guys to take you that far. Ideally, you'd like three. If you get less than that and you have no days off over a long period of time, you're going to tax those guys in the 'pen.
"That's not the right approach, especially within the first 40 or 45 games in your season. You're looking for trouble."
Four of Baltimore's seven relievers -- George Sherrill, Jamie Walker, Chad Bradford and Dennis Sarfate -- have appeared in at least three of the team's first six games. Two others, Randor Bierd and Matt Albers, have been used for multi-inning stints. With that alignment, it's no wonder that Trembley feels that he might need another arm or two.
The problem, of course, is that expanding to a 13-man pitching staff would leave room for just three position players on the bench. Trembley knows that isn't a long-range alignment, but it might work for him in a pinch.
"That would be something that I think you'd only have to do for a very short period of time," he said, "because you do have some guys on this club, especially late in the game, that you'd like the flexibility to be able to run for somebody.
"You'd like to be able to turn somebody around if they bring in a left or right-handed pitcher and have somebody off the bench that is flexible in more than one spot. Otherwise, I know at home you play for nine innings. But a lot of times on the road, you have to prepare for playing an extra-inning game. If you don't have the manpower to do it, you'll probably get caught short."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.