Trying to figure out who is going to be the next Orioles closer is like trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube while wearing a blindfold. In other words, its really difficult to figure out just who is going to consistently close games for the O’s. They signed Mike “I-can’t-stand-still-when-I-pitch” Gonzalez to a two-year, $12 million deal in the offseason hoping he would be the answer to the closer problem. Well it didn’t take but two games to figure out that finding a closer would be a lingering problem for the O’s all season. Gonzalez doesn’t have horrible career numbers as a closer, but I’m not quite sure if he was worth $6 million a year.
The most saves he has ever recorded in a season was 24 with Pittsburgh in 2006. He has an excellent career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.50, which is one of the attributes you need to be an effective closer. But he has been a setup guy for the majority of his career, so to give him that much money and expect him to come right in and be successful as a closer may have been too much to ask. After blowing two saves against Tampa Bay and Toronto in the first week of the season, it seemed as if that decision wasn’t the smartest one the O’s have ever made. Gonzalez was then placed on the disabled list on April 14 with a left shoulder strain. So with Gonzalez out of commission for several weeks, the O’s were in need of a new closer.
The most logical guy to throw into the closer role was Jim Johnson. Johnson did well last season as a setup guy so Trembley gave him a chance to try and close out some games. Well Johnson has appeared in 10 games this season and has accumulated a 6.52 ERA, allowing seven earned runs in 9 2/3 innings. After his mysterious implosion, he was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk on May 1.
With Johnson currently out of the picture, Cla Meredith, Will Ohman, Matt Albers and Alfredo Simon have been handling the late inning situations. Of the three, Simon is the only one who has the potential to be a closer. Meredith, Ohman and Albers are strictly setup guys and are hard to trust when it comes to relying on them to close out games. Simon is considered the closer for the moment, but judging from his career numbers (26 hits, 16 earned runs in 22 1/3 innings) he probably won’t be the long-term solution. However, he has fared well so far this season, appearing in three games this season and not allowing an earned run. He throws hard and his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame makes you believe he has the physical attributes to be a good closer down the road. He has only been in the league for two years so he has a lot of learning to do.
Early on, I thought Kam Mickolio had the stuff to be a decent closer, but he was optioned back to Triple-A back on April 27th after just three appearances. He was called up on April 15th, but allowed five hits and three earned runs in just 3 2/3 innings. Mickolio’s fastball is anywhere from the mid-to-high 90s and both his slider and changeup are works-in-progress. He definitely needs some work on his control, but I think he could eventually be an option for closing games for the O’s.
Needless to say, the O’s could have anyone close out games in the coming weeks. I guess it all depends on who the hot pitcher is at the time and who Trembley thinks can handle the situation placed in front of him. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised with anyone they throw in there.