Going into 2011, the Orioles have three legitimate contenders to serve as the team's closer. This is a spring training battle that has been oft-discussed in various Open Threads, but little official news seems to have dribbled out of camp on the subject.
Let's examine our options, shall we?Mike Gonzalez was signed as the team's presumptive closer heading into the 2010 season, and quickly earned himself the scorn of O's fans everywhere by routinely self-immolating on the mound for a couple weeks and then hitting the DL with a previously-undisclosed injury. In retrospect, this shouldn't have been a tremendous shock, as the dude has some scary mechanics and hasn't played a full season without hitting the DL, besides 2009. Even heading into 2011, on paper, Gonzalez would seem to be the front-runner, with the highest ERA+ and K/9 of any of our closer possibilities. But paper is not reality, and Gonzalez probably has a lot of goodwill to re-establish.
Koji Uehara became the O's closer nearly by default last year, but acquitted himself well in the role. The obvious issue with Koji is that he is quite the delicate flower. Even in Spring Training, he has already started to battle nagging elbow issues that have plagued him since his arrival in Baltimore. And at age 35, I don't think anyone's expecting a full season from Koji right now. When healthy, Koji has been effective, with the highest K/BB ratio of any of our potential closers.
Kevin Gregg was signed this offseason, seemingly to hedge our bets on the two guys above. In a very un-MacPhail-like signing, Gregg was seemingly acquired for his 122 career saves, to include 37 just last year. But almost all of Gregg's peripheral stats are worse than Gonzalez, Uehara and even Jim Johnson (who has proven that he can't close and is not in this discussion).
Oh yeah, and there's Alfredo Simon. Hahahahahaha.
If I had my druthers, I'd move Uehara back down the bullpen and try to turn him back into most than a one-inning guy. Ideally, our starters go at least six innings most nights, and that's where he takes over when we have the lead. From there, JJ should take over in the eighth inning, and Gregg and Gonzalez should share time based on lefty/right splits. I think Buck Showalter has shown himself to be relatively unattached to the "closer" label, but for the most part teams do need one, and I think one will shake out by May, either due to injury or (lack of) performance. Essentially I think the season should open as a continuation of the Spring Training battle for closer.
What do you think?