It took the Orioles until June 27th of last season to finally designate Garrett Atkins for assignment after he was hitting .214 with one home run, nine RBIs, and a .562 OPS in 152 plate appearances.  The reason for waiting so long to remove him from the 40 man roster was his $4.5 million contract that was hanging over the heads of Orioles officials.  If a young player during his arbitration years put up these Atkins-esque numbers, he would be easily pushed back to the minor leagues or released.  The decision to cut Atkins was a simple one in the eyes of O’s fans, and probably became easier for the execs after they saw him consistently perform at a poor level for such an extended period of time.

Mike Gonzalez, one of the other high end contracts given out prior to the 2010 season, has definitely had his ups and downs in the Orioles system.  After saving ten games (in seventeen chances, none the less) with a 2.42 ERA in 2009, Gonzalez came into Baltimore last year to be the team’s primary closer for two years.  At least that’s what the organization had planned on.

Flash back to April 6, 2010.  On Opening Day in Tampa Bay, the Orioles took a 3-2 lead into the 9th inning after Kevin Millwood pitched five solid innings followed by three stellar relief innings from the O’s.  Adam Jones, Luke Scott, and Matt Wieters each had solo home runs in the game, and Dave Trembley was prepared to give a positive post game interview about the team’s first win coming on that day.

In comes Mike Gonzalez.  After striking out Pat Burrell to start the inning, the excitement grew on O’s fans that the season was about to begin with a W.  Then came a Sean Rodriguez single, a Kelly Shoppach double, an intentional walk of Jason Bartlett, and ending with a Carl Crawford two-RBI line drive single to right field.

Rays win, 4-3.

48 hours later, Gonzalez was on the mound again with the O’s clenching on to a 5-4 lead.  Pat Burrell strikes out.  Here we go again.  Sean Rodriguez strikes out.  And next?  Walk, single, walk.  In order.  A Ben Zobrist pop out ended the game.  Luckily.

The next day?  Gonzalez in with a 6-5 lead, and after a walk, double, and two sacrifices, the O’s found themselves losing again.  Four days into the season, and the club found themselves with a 1-3 mark.  Even worse were the stats behind the new $12 million closer, who was now sporting an 18.00 ERA and 4.50 WHIP in three brutal appearances.

Finally admitting to shoulder pains, Gonzalez rehabbed shoulder injuries through mid-July, time that Orioles fans wished had gone on longer.  Even once he got back into games during rehab appearances, he was letting up home runs and multiple hits per inning in the minor leagues.  But rest assured, he was “healthy.”

Finishing the season off with a 4.01 ERA in 24.2 IP, Mike Gonzalez certainly was not who anybody had hoped he’d be for the Orioles.  It seemed that all he really fixed during his three mixed months was that he didn’t have a 45-step windup.

Fast forward to April of 2011.

Here we are today, as Mike Gonzalez now has an ERA of 13.50 and WHIP of 2.44 in seven appearances.  With only one scoreless outing this year so far (yes, he has allowed at least one run in six of seven appearances), Gonzalez is becoming a liability in the Orioles bullpen.  Check out his game by game results for yourself.  It’s just not pretty.

Last Sunday, against the Yankees, after the rain delay and into extra innings, the Yankees had Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher coming up to bat in the top of the 11th.  Instead of using the left handed Gonzalez who had two days of rest since his last time on the mound, manager Buck Showalter brought in righty Jason Berken, who had let up three runs just the night before.

It is obvious that Mike Gonzalez is not a quality asset to the Orioles organization at this point.  Brought in to pitch the 8th inning just last night, Gonzalez managed to only record one out while allowing two runs on two hits and a walk.

In his post game interview, Gonzalez said the following:

“The results, seriously, I don’t feel bad or frustrated whatsoever. What I wanted was to go out there and have my mindset. It really didn’t even have to do with the velocity. It just had to do with my mindset. I felt really good today. I felt really comfortable and it just didn’t go my way. But I will fight like this all day. I’ll go every day to work like that feeling the way I felt today. No frustration whatsoever.”

No frustration?  You don’t feel bad for the results?  Atkins may have gotten a lot of money as well, but when he struggled consistently, it was time to release him.

Is it time to let go of Michael Gonzalez and look at other options?  I believe so.