SARASOTA, Fla. — — Mike Gonzalez knew he would be the Orioles' closer. He knew teams don't traditionally hand out two-year, $12 million deals to left-handed setup men.
But he still greatly appreciated the way the official news was delivered. This week, before most pitchers and catchers had even reported, Orioles manager Dave Trembley called Gonzalez into his office, told him he would be the team's closer and rattled off the reasons.
"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 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 strained shoulder while filming an Orioles TV 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."
Sarasota 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 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 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, 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]," Rifkin said. "Today was very important and very productive."
Moore shapes up with Brady
Recovering from thumb surgery, infielder Scott Moore
was sitting around his California home early in the offseason when he remembered a conversation he had about a year earlier with former Oriole Brady Anderson
While visiting his former team at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Anderson asked Moore whether he wanted to train with him in the offseason. Moore decided to take him up on the offer and learned quickly that Anderson, a noted fitness fanatic, still hasn't lost his passion for working out. The two trained five or six times a week in the offseason in the Los Angeles area, sessions that included some hitting practice and nutrition and diet advice.
"It was pretty tough," said Moore, 26. "He's just in insane shape. To have somebody that is in that good of shape push me to get to his level was tough, but it worked out really well. I feel great."
Moore hit .252 with seven homers and 21 RBIs in 32 games for Triple-A Norfolk before he was shut down and had surgery to repair ligament damage in his right thumb June 2. The Orioles are stocked with corner infielders and Moore is a long shot to make the Opening Day roster, but that's the furthest thing from his mind.
"I'm not thinking about the different spots that are open," Moore said. "All I can control is playing good and playing hard, and they'll make the decision from there. I'm excited to be back again. Hopefully, I'll have a good spring. "