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Koji Uehara, not Kevin Gregg, will enter spring training as the Orioles’ closer

Feb 8, 2011, 10:15 AM EDT

koji-uehara-orioles Getty Images

Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com writes that Koji Uehara will head into spring training as the Orioles’ closer despite Baltimore signing Kevin Gregg to a two-year, $10 million contract this offseason.

Gregg has far more closing experience, saving 37 games last season and a total of 121 games during the previous four years, but if healthy Uehara is the guy you’d actually want on the mound with a slim lead in the ninth inning.

Gregg has a 4.03 career ERA, including just one season with a mark under 3.50, while Uehara posted a 2.86 ERA and spectacular 55/5 K/BB ratio in 44 innings last season after moving from the rotation to the bullpen because of injuries. And then there’s Mike Gonzalez, who signed on to be the Orioles’ closer last winter with a two-year, $12 million deal only to miss most of the season with shoulder problems.

Jim Johnson even has some closing experience, so manager Buck Showalter has no shortage of options for the ninth inning, but if everyone is healthy Uehara represents the Orioles’ best chance to have a shutdown closer even if that makes Gregg an extremely overpaid setup man.

  1. Jason @ IIATMS - Feb 8, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    Rafael Soriano scowls at your assertion that Gregg is “an extremely overpaid setup man”. In Crocodile Dundee-style:

    That’s not an overpaid setup man… THIS is an overpaid setup man.

  2. Jonny 5 - Feb 8, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    Man, do the Orioles have alot of loot tied up in closing games for a team that has a lead how often again??? This makes no sense to me.

    • Panda Claus - Feb 8, 2011 at 10:29 AM

      Koji melts when the mercury passes 80, Gonzalez has last season’s injury concerns still fresh in our minds and Gregg, well he’s the next new guy with a fat contract. It feels like just a bullpen patched together with experienced (former) closers to me, but on paper it does seem to depth and insurance. If one guy goes down there’s no shortage of guys lining up to take his place.

      Will it work? That’s a question that remains to be answered.

      • Jonny 5 - Feb 8, 2011 at 10:44 AM

        Yeah, “Closer” is just a term for “reliever with larger balls”, afterall…

      • trevorb06 - Feb 8, 2011 at 11:33 AM

        Will it work?! This is the O’s… how will we ever know if its actually working?

      • randomdigits - Feb 8, 2011 at 11:36 AM

        Koji was fine last year with or without heat, the important part is that his stuff plays a lot better the first time through the order. In 2009 he looked gassed after 70 or so pitches if it was hot or cold.

        As for him starting spring training as the closer, both of the last two spring trainings Koji has managed to pull his hamstring so he is far from a lock to be even ready to play come opening day. (he also has a history of hamsting issues in Japan)

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