SARASOTA, FLA. — New closer Mike Gonzalez wants to make one thing clear -- no matter what the radar readings say, no matter how he has looked during his first two outings, his arm feels fine.
Gonzalez was able to face just two hitters in an Orioles "B" game on Saturday versus the Florida Marlins at Ed Smith Stadium. However, his abridged outing was a result of some soreness in his lower back and not anything related to his arm.
"My arm feels great and everything else," Gonzalez said. "I just had a little tightness in my lower back. It's just one of those couple of day things. I just have to stay on top of it. It's not a big deal at all. I've felt it before. It's just one of those things where you take a couple of days and you're fine."
There has been plenty of speculation about Gonzalez's health as a result of his infrequent use this spring and how he has pitched in the two times that he has gotten the ball. He's allowed one run on four hits and two walks over two innings.
However, most concerning to the Orioles, scouts have clocked Gonzalez's fastball in the mid 80s and openly inquired to local reporters about the left-handed reliever's health. Gonzalez's fastball usually sits in the low to mid 90s.
"I really don't look at velocity. I never have," Gonzalez said. "It was the same thing last year at spring training. They were questioning my velocity. I was anywhere from 86 to 89. Then I come out Opening Day and I'm 93 to 95. That's just how it is, man.
"Right now, we're just trying to tweak things. I'm trying to work on things, work on my changeup, work on my two-seamer, work on my location. Velocity is going to be there. That's something that I don't really think about just for the fact that I know my body and I'm not trying to make the team out of spring training. What I'm trying to do is stay healthy and get ready for Opening Day."
Orioles manager Dave Trembley has said several times that there are no health concerns with Gonzalez and he reiterated that today.
"We've done our homework on that and checked with people that had him in the past and that's normally what he does," said Trembley, acknowledging that he was aware of Gonzalez's low velocity readings. "That's his normal progression during spring training. He'll start dialing it up as we get closer to the start of the season. There's nothing wrong with his arm. In fact, if you ask him about his arm, be careful because he will take offense to that."
Gonzalez did get slightly defensive when informed that other team's scouts were questioning whether he was healthy or not.
"I could care less what the scouts think, I could care less what anyone else thinks in that manner," he said. "It's me getting myself situated. My arm feels great, my body feels good. People are going to have their opinions regardless. They've had their opinions for my last six years in the big leagues talking about how velocity is a big thing. When game-time comes around, all of a sudden it changes and they say, 'I guess he was fine.' There's no need to get that velocity up right now. I don't see any reason to go out and max out. If I'm trying to make a team, that's a different story."
The Orioles, remembering what effect the July trade of All-Star closer George Sherrill had on the team, signed Gonzalez to a two-year, $12 million deal this offseason to anchor the bullpen. With Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara setting up Gonzalez, they figured that the relief corps could develop into one of the team's primary strengths.
Gonzalez hasn't been on the mound much this spring and has struggled when he has. Johnson struggled again today, allowing two earned runs on three hits, a walk and a hit batsman in the Orioles' 4-3 victory over the Phillies, leaving his spring ERA at 7.36.
Gonzalez said it's far too early to be concerned.
"We got almost three weeks left," he said. "If I would tell you that I had one goal for spring training, it's for me to be ready. Whatever I do here between now and Opening Day, it's just to get myself ready."
NOTES: First baseman Michael Aubrey strained his right groin leaving the batter's box during Saturday's game against the Yankees. He hopes it'll only sideline him for another day or two. "It's extremely frustrating,'' he said. "I'm trying to put myself in a good position and you can't do that if you're not playing."The Orioles will hold an intrasquad game at 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday. Kevin Millwood and Johnson are scheduled to pitchNolan Reimold looked gimpy leaving the field after trying to leg out an infield single in the fifth inning, but Trembley said he is running better and was not removed because of his surgically-repaired ankleRobert Andino, who got off to a 1-for-15 start at the plate, has four hits including three extra-base hits in his last seven at-bats. Miguel Tejada went 0-for-2 yesterday and is now 3-for-17 this spring.
Sun columnist Peter Schmuck contributed to this story.