Jim Johnson took over the closer’s role when the Orioles traded George Sherrill to the Dodgers before the trade deadline in 2009. It seemed a natural fit as Johnson was Sherrill’s set up man, and he even closed out a few games when asked to in order to give Sherrill a day off here and there. However, that wasn’t the case.
Johnson struggled in the ninth inning role saving in just 10 games in 16 chances. His ERA ballooned to 4.11 and he looked tired at times in September. In addition to looking tired, Johnson gave up home runs which is uncharacteristic for a sinker baller.
Baltimore was patient with Johnson’s development into a late-game reliever. He has dealt with a tired shoulder at times the last two seasons, but the right-hander has always come back strong to bridge the gap to the ninth inning.
In 2010, it appears Johnson will once again be a set up man. This time it will be for Mike Gonzalez. Johnson has an excellent chance to succeed if he is fully healthy and has put his poor ending to 2009 behind him. In two innings in spring training, Johnson has three strike outs and given up one run. I wouldn’t take spring statistics too seriously as all the pitchers work on specific aspects of their game this early. If he continues to give up runs late in spring, then it might be time to worry.
He should have a bounce back season in 2010 as he will have more late inning appearances along with Gonzalez and Kam Mickolio. What do you think?