Nothing symbolizes the Baltimore Orioles’ struggles this season as well as their closer situation, which has simply been a series of disasters.
After signing a 2-year, $12 million contract, Mike Gonzalez struggled in his first two appearances (0-2, 18.00 ERA) before going on the 60 day DL with a strained left shoulder.
Jim Johnson, who successfully saved 10 games in 2009, suffered a tear in his elbow and could be ticketed for Tommy John surgery. He saved just 1 in 4 save opportunities early in the year and racked up a 6.52 ERA.
Now, it looks like Alfredo (Sauce) Simon may be in new skipper Buck Showalter’s pig pen instead of his bullpen. Simon is 17 of 21 in save opportunities this year with a 3-2 record and a 4.62 ERA. His WHIP of 1.57, however, is uncloser-esque.
“I’m sure Simon will get some more opportunities along the way, but I feel like we have some other people capable of doing it other than him,” said manager Buck Showalter. “We’ll see what each night dictates.
Chief among them has been Koji Uehara, who has allowed just one earned run in his last 11 outings, a stretch of 12 2/3 innings. Uehara has had trouble adjusting to the heat in the summer months, but Showalter added that he was “evolving” to the point where he can pitch more frequently and get key outs late in the game. Uehara is 1-0 with a 2.18 ERA on the campaign.
Gonzalez is back on the roster again as well and given his salary, it’s likely that Showalter will give him a look as well. Gonzalez has allowed just 2 runs over his last 9 innings pitched. He’s 0-2, 4.91 on the year with a 1.57 WHIP.
Simon has filled in better than anyone expected this season. Just over a year removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, Simon, a converted starter, has held down the closer role until Showalter’s announcement yesterday. The 29-year-old Dominican has not pitched since the blown save on Monday.
“He has above-average pitches but he’s still got to locate them, too,” Showalter said of Simon, who has given up a homer in each of his last two save opportunities. “Guys can turn around a bullet up here.”
Fantasy Baseball Advice: An experienced manager like Showalter didn’t come to a putrid Orioles team to keep the status quo. And, you have to like what he’s done thus far. The Orioles look for a sweep tonight in Cleveland and to push Buck’s record to 9-1. Thanks to winning 8 of their last 9, the Orioles have officially made the Pirates the worst team in baseball.
We think that Simon is going to continue to get most of the save opportunities, although if you are in an especially deep league, you may want to give Gonzalez another look. Sometimes, I think managers like to just say these kind of things to motivate players.