A new closer in town, though no one is saying it
Right-hander Jim Johnson entered with a one-run lead in the ninth inning Monday afternoon and threw just seven pitches for a perfect inning and his seventh save of the year.
It was his fifth save in his past six outings dating to Sept. 7 – a span in which he has allowed one run and two hits in 6 1/3 innings.
In the month of September, Johnson has five saves and incumbent closer Kevin Gregg, who has blown three of his past six opportunities, has just one save.
It’s clear Johnson is Showalter’s choice to close out games now, but the manager is not making any proclamations. When asked about going to Johnson on Monday afternoon, Showalter said, “Just the rest factor and, you know, I want to expose people to as many possible situations that will help us make better decisions as we go forward, because they are not going to be here in about 10 games.”
The Orioles have been kicking around the idea of making Johnson a starter next year, with Gregg signed through 2012. But Johnson is showing he can handle the closer’s role now.
“He was ready to go, and he came in and attacked the strike zone. That’s what I liked about it. Here it is,” Showalter said. “You keep talking to guys all the time. Would you want to go back to the hotel or your apartment and go, ‘God, I wish I’d been a little more aggressive?' Or are you gonna let it rip and lie with the consequences. Jimmy is letting it rip.”
Johnson downplayed the situation and how well he has been throwing of late, saying: “Not just me, look at some of the guys in the bullpen. It’s nice. We are trying to all finish the year strong. Guys are pitching well right now.”