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September 19, 2011

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.”

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:18 PM | | Comments (17)
        

Comments

nothing more deflating for the squad than matusz' first inning debacle. i can't believe that buck is pitching him tonight.

there was no reason for matusz to be anywhere near a major league mound. What is Buck trying to prove doing this?

This is just plain pathetic.

What are the options for Brian Matusz right now? Are there any instructional leagues still in season? Is there anything going on at the Spring Training complex? Because this guy doesn't deserve to be in uniform, let alone to actually pitch in a game.

Please end this, now. For the team's sake. For the fans' sake. For Matusz's sake.

End this.

Buck has made arrangements for the nightcap to give Johnson the night off.

Unfortunately, with Matusz getting another torching, everybody else will spend some time on the hill.

Buck, I'm sure Theo says thanks, but it isn't going to be nearly enough.

looks like strop is the set up man of choice though i think if johnson would start next yr strop could be the closer.

But will Johnson be the closer for 2012? Not, if past history is an indication. Remember, just last year Koji finished with 13 out 15 save chances, and hardly walked anyone, only to be rewarded with Kevin Gregg as the closer to start the 2011 season. With Buck, ya never know!

Let's not forget Matusz has only a little over 1 1/2 years in the minors so what he is experiencing now is not unusual. Forget how he finished last year. I would have him spend the winter with Scott McGregor to understand how a left hander of his stature should be pitching to ML hitters. Afterall Scotty spent 12 years throwing junk and garbage.

May I ask why it took until there were 3 weeks left in the season for this to happen? Was Buck forced by Angelos?

I hope Buck was embarrassed after the Toronto debacle, where Johnson had a perfect ninth, and then Buck went back to Gregg the next day to watch him blow it.

Johnson has shown, when healthy, he has what it takes to be a good reliever and closer. I know we're kind of short on good starters these days, but I wouldn't risk it with him when you know what you have. He should be the closer next season.

All Johnson's performance is proving is what many of us already believe - that JJ is the best pitcher on the staff. Buck and McPhail need to stop acting like the smartest guys in the room and let Johnson anchor the rotation, not backup the bullpen.

Closers are a luxury on a last place team. Gregg is awful, but we are not within 5 games of the playoffs so the fact he has saved 20 out of 27 (instead of 25 of 27) does NOT matter.

Did St. Louis keep Adam Wainwright in the bullpen when they knew they had a potential 20 game winner on their hands? This team needs to trade Adam Jones for a frontline starter, add JJ to the rotation, and fill in from there.

We NEED to knock Boston out of the playoffs. If we don't, we are pathetic (as in more pathetic than we already are).

Attempting to turn Johnson back into a starter would be insane. He should've been awarded the closer role months ago. Besides the Orioles are going to be so short on dependable starters in 2012 that the change wouldn't make a difference anyway. If he isn't traded over the winter, Guthrie is the only "starter" who doesn't really belong in the bullpen.

About d*mn time!

Speaking of closers do you realize that if Rivera played his entire career with the Orioles he would have been a member of AARP before he broke the save record?

During the 1st game of yesterdays' doubleheader, Guthrie was rolling along 'til the 5th inning.He was getting ahead of the batters with 0-2 counts,but couldn't put 'em away,or simply lost 'em.

I was flabergasted when I heard.Jim Palmer comment that Guthrie told
Curt Schilling that "he felt clueless/lost on what to throw".
How many years has Guthrie been in baseball / pitching?
Has he not figured out what/when to throw a certain pitch.
I could accept that if Matusz or Britton said that..
UNBELIVEABLE!!

I think there are only two starters set for next year's rotation - Guthrie and Britton. Arrieta could qualify if he will quit nibbling and attack hitters. Hunter is not ready for the starting rotation until/unless he learns to change speeds and keep his pitches down in the zone. Simon has great stuff, but can't command it two starts in a row.

So the O's need not one, not two, but THREE free agent starters next year, plus Prince Fielder. Then maybe they can contend. Otherwise, it's last place as usual.

Anonymous, are you on crack?

Arrieta and Hunter are locks for next year's rotation. Yes, Arrieta needs to learn to throw strikes more consistently, and Hunter needs to throw more quality pitches late in the game, but both are bulldogs with great attitudes...the kind of guys you want on the hill all the time.

Guthrie (if not traded), Britton, Arrieta and Hunter will be in next year's starting 5, and I really don't have a problem with that as long as we have a good PC

What was wrong with the old one? Ha ha, just kidding.

Jones. Matusz , Guthrie to cin for 1b/lf-Alonso, 3b-JFransisco, Of-CHeilsey, Sp- EVolquez & ss-PJanish?

dreams, huh?

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.


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