Trembley pulling for Simon in closer's role

Simon is now Orioles' closer, converting all five of his save chances, not allowing earned run in 8 appearances

May 15, 2010|By Dan Connollly, The Baltimore Sun

Manager Dave Trembley, who managed nearly 2,800 games in the minor leagues before getting his big break with the Orioles, is a sucker for the underdog, for the guy who overcomes steep odds and succeeds.

So there is no one currently on the roster who has captured Trembley's attention more than closer Alfredo Simon, who was rescued by the organization from the Mexican League in 2008 and had his career threatened last year when he underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction.

Six weeks into the season, Simon is now the Orioles' closer, converting all five of his save chances and not allowing an earned run in eight appearances.

"This guy was pitching in Mexico. Tommy John surgery and less than a year later he is closing a game against the New York Yankees," Trembley said. "That's Walter Mitty. That's a tremendous story. Let's give the guy credit. I pull for him as hard as I pull for anybody."

Simon, 29, had closed in just one season in his professional career, in 2005 with the San Francisco Giants' Double-A Norwich affiliate.

But injuries to Michael Gonzalez and Koji Uehara, coupled with the ineffectiveness of Jim Johnson, forced the Orioles to switch Simon to the bullpen in April and then almost immediately recall him.

Although Simon hasn't always been smooth in his save opportunities — he has allowed seven hits and five walks in eight innings — he has gotten the job done.

"There is a long way to go; there will be some slip-ups along the way by him, by me, by all of us, but it won't change my opinion about him right now," Trembley said. "I am amazed at the fact that he has been so resilient in a role that he has never done."

Now that Uehara is back, Trembley could insert him into the closer's role and move Simon to the eighth inning. But the manager said he likes the soft-tossing Uehara setting up for the flame-throwing Simon. When Gonzalez, who received a two-year, $12 million deal this offseason to be the club's closer, returns from a shoulder injury, the back end of the bullpen could be reshuffled. But Trembley said he's not considering that yet.

"I can't predict the future. I can't forecast what could happen next week or next month. I am telling you right now I feel pretty good whenever we have the lead to give him the ball," Trembley said. "Until some of the other things get straightened out and sorted out, Al is going to get his fair shot of those chances."

Orioles pare down draft choices

With the June 7 draft nearing, Orioles director of scouting Joe Jordan has whittled down his targets for the third overall pick, and he'll visit each of them over the next couple of weeks.

"I've got it down to four or five guys where our pick is going to come from," Jordan said. "I'm really going to stay on the guys that we've been on the whole time, visit with them and try to get to know them even more. I'm trying to get real good looks for the next 2 and 21/2 weeks. There are no days off right now. We'll leave no stone unturned."

Jordan won't tip his hand about whom the club is considering with its top pick, though it will likely choose from a group that includes Mississippi left-hander Drew Pomeranz, Woodlands (Texas) High right-handed pitcher Jameson Taillon, Cal State Fullerton shortstop Christian Colon and Brito (Fla.) High shortstop Manny Machado.

All things being equal, the Orioles would like to select an impact bat, but beyond junior college catcher Bryce Harper, who is expected to go first overall to the Washington Nationals, there are only a few hitters projected as early first-round picks.

"We're going to have position guys that we like and they'll be plenty of pitching available," Jordan said. "We're going to have our options, and we're going to get a player we really like."

Scott in lineup again

Luke Scott, who has four hits in his past two games to raise his batting average from .186 to .213, was in the starting lineup for a third consecutive game Friday. Trembley said he believes Scott is getting ready to enter a hot streak.

"We have all seen it. And we have seen the other side of the coin as well," Trembley said of Scott's streakiness. "I am confident perhaps he is turning the corner. This is the good phase of Luke Scott that we are beginning to see. It comes at a good time for us."

Acta returns to area

Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta was back in the area in a baseball uniform for the first time since being fired by the Washington Nationals last July. This is as close as Acta and the Indians will get to Washington, where Acta managed from 2007 to 2009.

"I have a lot of family and friends around here," Acta said. "So obviously it was an important trip for me."

Around the horn

The Orioles don't have interest in first basemen Ryan Garko, who was optioned to the minors by the Texas Rangers, or Hank Blalock, who could opt out of his minor league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays this week. … First base coach John Shelby left the team Friday to be inducted into the Henry Clay High School Hall of Fame in Lexington, Ky. Shelby is a 1976 graduate of Clay, where he starred in basketball and baseball. Bench coach Jeff Datz coached first Friday. … According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Orioles' five-run rally Thursday marked the sixth time in the past four seasons that they have won a game after trailing by four or more runs after the eighth inning or later. No other team has won more than four in those situations.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

http://twitter.com/danconnollysun

Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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