Gonzalez to miss at least three weeks

As he recovers from shoulder strain, Johnson will be regular closer

April 16, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

OAKLAND, Calif. — A magnetic resonance imaging performed on Michael Gonzalez's left shoulder revealed no new damage, but the struggling closer is still expected to be on the disabled list for at least three weeks.

Gonzalez, who blew two of his first three save opportunities, reported problems with his shoulder while he was warming up Tuesday. He was diagnosed with a shoulder strain, and he'll report to the team's minor league complex in Sarasota, Fla., to begin a rehabilitation program.

"The MRI showed no new injuries," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley, who confirmed that Jim Johnson will get most of the save opportunities in Gonzalez's absence. "There is some wear and tear. The injury is being classified as a shoulder strain, so he's going to Florida to rehab. I got off the phone with [president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail], and they're telling me three weeks. That's an unfortunate situation for us."

Gonzalez, 31, whom the team signed to a two-year, $12 million deal this offseason to bolster the back end of its bullpen, allowed four earned runs, five hits and four walks in three outings spanning two innings. He blew a one-run save in the season opener and did it again last Friday in the home opener, getting booed off the mound at Camden Yards.

His velocity lagged for much of the spring, but Gonzalez insisted he was healthy and would turn it up once the season started. Trembley said Gonzalez maintains that the injury occurred when he was warming up Tuesday and said it hadn't been bothering him for an extended period.

"I talked to [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] today about that, and Kranitz told me that in spring training, there were times that Gonzalez was throwing and it looked like he really wasn't letting it go and throwing hard. Kranitz had asked him, ‘Are you OK?' and he said that he had no problems with his arm. ‘My arm feels great,'" said Trembley, who was set to bring Gonzalez into the game Tuesday until bullpen coach Alan Dunn called the dugout and said the reliever couldn't get loose. "The other day when I got him up to come in the game was the first I heard of him having any problems with his arm whatsoever."

Johnson's turn

With Gonzalez out, Trembley said that he'll "probably match up as best as we can, but more than likely, you'll see Johnson get the majority of the save opportunities."

It is a return to the role Johnson occupied the final two months of the 2009 season, after George Sherrill was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In Sherrill's place, Johnson converted eight of 11 save chances but allowed at least one run in five of those games.

As Sherrill's prime setup man, Johnson had a 3.17 ERA, but it ballooned to 4.11 by season's end, though not all the runs were allowed in save situations.

"Last year, bouncing back and forth, obviously that was a bigger transition because I haven't done it before, but now I think I have a little bit of experience doing it. I think that will help me," Johnson said. "You learn from previous mistakes, so I think hopefully I can fill the void until Mike gets healthy."

Johnson acknowledged that he put a bit more pressure on himself last year when he inherited the role.

"The last month of the year, nothing seemed to be going right for me," he said. "There was mechanical flaws … and obviously when we had that losing streak, I was probably trying to overdo some things. [But] I think it comes with experience. You don't know how good you are going to be at something until you experience it and you fail and you succeed."

Kam's time

When he was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk before the start of the season, reliever Kam Mickolio acknowledged that he was angry with himself for allowing a groin injury to derail his chances of making the major league team.

He didn't have to wait very long to get his opportunity, which arrived Thursday when he was summoned to the big leagues to take Gonzalez's roster spot.

Mickolio, who has made 20 big league appearances over the past two seasons, allowed one run in three innings for the Tides. However, some of the control problems that dogged him in spring training continued as he allowed four hits and four walks while striking out five.

"You like to be called up in different [situations] instead of someone getting hurt, but it's always nice to come back up here and get an opportunity," Mickolio said. "I'm not going to dwell too much on what happened. I'm going to come up here and hopefully show them what I've done is enough to stick around for a while."

Around the horn

Injured pitcher Koji Uehara (hamstring strain) said on his blog Wednesday that he felt 70 percent during his second bullpen session. He'll throw a live batting practice session Saturday. ... Injured second baseman Brian Roberts (herniated disk) will see back specialist Dr. Lee Riley on Friday to determine how he'll proceed in his rehab schedule. … All Orioles players and coaches wore No. 42 for Thursday night's game to honor the 63rd anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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