For some reason I thought Rich Hill had somehow become the closer for the Baltimore Orioles. Why Rich Hill? He’s another pitcher who insisted that physically he was fine until after he started pitching poorly, and then suddenly went on the DL with an injury none of us had heard anything about. He then bounced up and down from the DL to the starting rotation, never getting “healthy” enough to show us his real arsenal. When I see someone like Mike Gonzalez suddenly and mysteriously wind up on the DL after insisting he was just waiting to show his stuff, excuse me for being suspicious.
Mike Gonzalez was relieved of his closing duties after blowing his second save in three attempts and giving up hits at will. Even then he insisted that he would bounce back, but the coaches saw something different. Trembley sent the reliever to work with Rick Kranitz to refine his delivery and release point the last we had heard, and now suddenly he is injured. Given Gonzalez’s confident, almost flippant attitude to blowing his saves, I doubt he would conceal an injury like this and tell the media and his manager that his health was beyond question.
However, we can’t necessarily jump to conclusions about this being a phantom injury. If you notice in the Luke Scott interview that appeared on BSR, Luke mentioned that Gonzalez was having some health issues, though he didn’t specify much. This was the first I had heard about a possible injury- could it be that the story broke on BSR and we didn’t even know it? Gonzalez’s velocity was down 3-4 MPH this spring and while he told reporters that nothing was wrong, his spring outings show something different. I saw enough of Mike Gonzalez’s games for Atlanta to know that he was never this wild of a pitcher, and perhaps he had been throwing incorrectly or tweaked something in trying to fix his delivery.
Whatever the case, someone is going to have to answer the bell. Kam Mickolio is out of options and after being almost handed a job in the bullpen proceeded to walk 7 batters and allow 7 hits in 9 1/3 innings of work. That is not the makeup of a possible closer, and the bullpen can’t afford another liability out there. Given his lack of options, I would prefer to give Mickolio more time in the minors before bringing him up and having to rely on him every 3 days, because if he is sent back down he will not clear waivers. A better option might be the left-hander Alberto Castillo, who only allowed 10 hits and no walks in 8.2 innings of work. He pitched well in 12 innings last season, and the club would not be risking as much in the long term in bringing him up. Additionally, having another lefty would help offset the loss of Gonzalez’s arm for matchup purposes.
The Orioles don’t want to have to replace their closer and dip into AAA a week into the season, but they are fortunate to at least have options to work with.