O's closer Gonzalez appreciates Trembley's style

February 19, 2010|By Baltimore Sun reporter

Sarasota, Fla. — Mike Gonzalez knew that he'd be the Orioles closer. He knew that teams don't traditionally hand out two-year, $12 million deals to left-handed setup men.

But he still greatly appreciated how the official news was delivered. Earlier this week before most pitchers and catchers had even reported, Orioles manager Dave Trembley called Gonzalez into his office and told him that he would be the team's closer and rattled off the reasons why.

"It definitely tells a whole lot about Trembley and the type of man he is," said Gonzalez, who has 54 career saves, including 10 last year with the Atlanta Braves.

"Him knowing that I've obviously been there and done that and obviously I know what I signed for, but hearing that from his mouth and the way he spoke obviously speaks wonders for him as a person and as a manager. It's just an extra respect that you get because he actually comes and sits down and has a talk with you and lets you know where things are going."

Trembley said he felt that it was important to make the official announcement early and begin the process of "slotting everybody else in the bullpen accordingly." With Gonzalez as the closer, Jim Johnson will return to the eighth-inning role.

Trembley said that he told Gonzalez, "Right now, you're the closer on this team, and we got you for the same reason that we got [Kevin] Millwood. You bring more than just the ability to pitch. You compete, you have experience, you can help the young guys, you can lead the way and I know you want the ball."

Bergesen, Uehara improve

It was an encouraging day for pitchers Brad Bergesen and Koji Uehara, who made key strides in their return from injuries. Bergesen, who suffered a sprained shoulder while filming an Orioles' commercial in December, had a good session off flat ground and is ready for the next phase of his throwing program.

"They told me today that this was the best he looked," Trembley said. "He's fine. He'll be up on the mound soon."

Uehara, who is coming off a season-ending elbow injury, also had a nice bullpen session that prompted Trembley to say, "Koji looked strong."

O's deal re-ratified In a public hearing of the Sarasota County Commissioners, the $31.2 million deal that brought the Orioles to the area was re-ratified on Friday in an attempt to blunt a legal challenge from opponents of the plan.

"The response from the community today was overwhelming," said Orioles attorney Alan Rifkin who said that 121 witnesses testified at the hearing and all but one spoke in favor of the deal. "To imagine that 120 people from all walks of life would take time out of their day to support baseball in Sarasota was absolutely extraordinary. It reconfirms that the club made the right decision."

The hearing was held to counter a lawsuit, brought by Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government and Citizens for Sunshine, that alleged county officials violated the state's Sunshine laws in the negotiations with the Orioles.

Rifkin, facility coordinator Laura Williams and President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail offered testimony at the hearing.

Friday's result could expedite the issuing of bonds to fund the renovation project, which team and county officials are hopeful will begin in April after spring training ends.

"Right now, the race is effectively to free the money up in sufficient time so the construction can start and be completed before they get back [next February]," said Rifkin. "Today was very important and very productive."

Around the horn

Though position players don't have to report until Monday, nine of them are already in camp, including Nick Markakis who walked out to the backfields yesterday with his son, Taylor, on his shoulders. The other position players who have reported are Robert Andino, Blake Davis, Rhyne Hughes, Adam Jones, Scott Moore, Felix Pie, Jeff Salazar and Justin Turner. Dennis Sarfate, Alfredo Simon, Jeremy Guthrie, Jake Arrieta and Kam Mickolio were among the pitchers singled out by Trembley and pitching coach Rick Kranitz for having good bullpen sessions. Kranitz said he's never seen Sarfate throw as well as he did, while Trembley called Mickolio "intimidating" and said he thinks the 6-foot-9 right-hander could be a future closer.

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