Manager Dave Trembley bristled yesterday when asked whether he'd be hesitant to use Mike Gonzalez in the next save situation.
"He's the closer," Trembley said.
The icy stare that accompanied those words wasn't aimed at anyone. Trembley turned his head and waited for the next question. But it's an uncomfortable situation for everyone.
Trembley can't bail on Gonzalez four games into the regular season. Reporters can't ignore the ninth inning crisis.
Yes, Baltimore, we have a problem.
Gonzalez fumed in spring training when questions turned to his health. His velocity was down. I watched an early bullpen session and wrote that he wasn't popping the catcher's mitt. I hadn't seen him throw in the past and didn't know whether this was the norm.
If my first impressions of Gonzalez came in the regular season, I might feel a little differently about him. Blown saves happen. He's just slow out of the gate. But I've spent seven weeks with him, and like everyone else, I've been waiting for him to turn it up
The lights are on, so this would be the appropriate time.
Fans are calling for Trembley to remove Gonzalez from the closer role. Well, somebody has to get the last three outs. You want Jim Johnson doing it again?
Koji Uehara still hasn't thrown off a mound, as far as we know, and it's been a long time since he faced hitters. He's not an immediate solution.
Kam Mickolio was sent down because he's still having command issues. He doesn't throw enough strikes. That's not a good quality for a closer.
Will Ohman is the best reliever in the bullpen at the moment. He has three career saves and is tabbed as the lefty specialist. Cla Meredith's next save in the majors will also be his first, though he's totaled 39 in the minors.
If Meredith was handed the closers job over the winter, the comments section of this blog would have blown up. Most of the reaction would have been negative, to put it mildly. Same goes for Matt Albers.
The Orioles signed Gonzalez for $12 million to be their ninth inning guy. They can't take that title away from him in the first week of the season. They have to give him the ball, stand behind him and trust that he'll figure it out.
Trembley knows it's the right thing to do.
He also knows that he doesn't have much choice.