It’s time for baseball’s save’s leader, Jim Johnson with 39, to be removed from the closer’s role in Baltimore. Johnson, who converted 51 saves last season has blown nine in 2013. The O’s fell to 14-21 in games decided by one-run and dropped their third straight game when leading in the seventh inning or later.
That simply can’t happen. Not if Baltimore plans to return to the postseason.
Last year the Orioles were 75-1 when leading after eight innings. This season they are an AL worst 56-9 after dropping two heartbreakers in Arizona against the Diamondbacks.
Jim Johnson scuffled earlier this season, but the Orioles didn’t have a real solution for his replacement. Many thought Tommy Hunter could close or that Buck Showalter would go with a closer by committee. This isn’t a problem anymore.
At the trade deadline, Dan Duquette sent Nick Delmonico to Milwaukee for a reliever with one of the longest resumes in the game. Francisco Rodriguez is the single-season saves leader, a guy with a proven track record and the current O’s pitcher on the hottest streak. Replacing Johnson with K-Rod wouldn’t be nearly as difficult in the Orioles’ locker room as swapping him out with Hunter. It’s time for Showalter to make the move.
The Orioles could have added any other bullpen help at the deadline. The Braves acquired Scott Downs from the Angels for minor leaguer Cory Rasmus, he could have easily landed in Baltimore. But it was Duquette who added one of the game’s best closers to the Orioles roster. That wasn’t by coincidence.
Rodriguez has thrown five scoreless innings allowing just two hits and striking out nine batters in his last five appearances. After the off day on Thursday, K-Rod should be given the ball in the Orioles next save situation.
I respect Showalter’s loyalty to Johnson, but the O’s can’t afford to continue losing winnable games. They’re six games back of the Red Sox for the lead in the AL East and 2.5 back in the Wild Card hunt. Just imagine if they had a closer who only blew four games instead of nine, it would be a totally different team.
It’s unacceptable to see Johnson back in the ninth with the game on the line.