Gonzalez says he'll work through struggles

Reliever Uehara says he's ready to pitch more often

April 16, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

CLEVELAND — — Reliever Michael Gonzalez put his fastball right where he wanted it to go against Orlando Cabrera in the seventh inning. Then, he watched the Cleveland Indians second baseman pull his hands in and send it over the left-field wall in the Orioles' 8-3 loss Saturday.

That's about how things have been going for the 32-year-old left-handed reliever, who has a 10.38 ERA and has given up runs in four of his five outings this season.

"It's one of those things where I can't think about it too much, but I was definitely frustrated today," said Gonzalez. "The stuff was good. The thing is, I was joking around with the guys, it's like I have to feel bad to have a good outing. I'm feeling good so I can't get down on myself in that situation. It's a long year and I've given up a few already. It's an uphill battle. It's not like I've never done this before."

In 4 1/3 innings this season, Gonzalez has allowed five earned runs, five hits and three walks. He gave up the game-winning run in Thursday night's 10-inning loss to the New York Yankees, whose rally started on a leadoff walk. Today, he entered the game in the seventh inning just trying to keep the Orioles' deficit at three runs. He retired the first two batters that he faced on deep flyouts to left fielder Luke Scott before Travis Hafner singled and Cabrera drove his 2-2 pitch well over the wall in left.

"He isn't pitching as well as he's capable of," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "We've got to keep running him out there. He's a potentially valuable piece for us down there in the bullpen."

Gonzalez signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Orioles before last season to serve as the team's closer but he's since been relegated to a left-handed specialist role. He missed about 3 ½ months last year with elbow issues. However, he said that injuries have nothing to do with his struggles this year.

Koji good for back-to-backs

A day after pitching for the first time in more than a week, reliever Koji Uehara let Showalter know that he's ready to start pitching in back-to-back games, which could influence how the Orioles' manager handles his closer situation down the road.

Uehara, who has pitched just 3 2/3 scoreless innings this season and retired 11 of the 12 batters that he's faced, has been limited so far this season as he continues to recover from a sore elbow that sidelined him for a good part of spring training.

Even with the development, Showalter said that he'll continue to be cautious with Uehara, the 36-year-old right-hander who has been on the disabled list four times in a little over two big league seasons.

"Keep in mind the short spring that he had," Showalter said. "We're trying to keep him around for the long haul. He just got to the point [Friday] where he needed to pitch."

Uehara's one-inning, scoreless outing Friday was his first time in a game situation since April 7. He threw only five pitches in retiring all three Cleveland Indians that he faced and he did not pitch today.

Showalter has never publicly anointed a closer, though Kevin Gregg has gotten both save situations. The manager admitted Friday that the decisions on his closer are "somewhat" influenced by Uehara's health.

Britton gets mad, impresses teammates

Rookie starter Zach Britton has been making a good impression on his veteran teammates since Day One of spring training, and that didn't change even during the rookie's struggles Friday.

Third baseman Mark Reynolds took note of Britton's demeanor when he came back to the dugout after allowing four runs in the third inning, and again after Travis Hafner's two-out solo homer in the sixth.

"He is fiery. He was in the dugout [ticked] off. That's good to see, especially from a young kid," said Reynolds. "You can maybe get overwhelmed a little bit but he … was trying to correct what he was doing. You see guys maybe intimidated and don't want to show emotion, especially at such a young age, but I love to see that from all guys. He made a mistake and he was mad about it. I thought it was great."

Fox homers and nearly falls

On an otherwise disappointing day for the Orioles, catcher Jake Fox provided a few laughs for his teammates when he stumbled going around first base following his third-inning home run. Fox ultimately had to go back to first base and touch it as first base coach Wayne Kirby and teammates chuckled in the background.

"It was one of those things where I was talking to [the ball] because I didn't know if I got it or not. I was like, 'Get out of here, go,'" Fox said. "Before I knew it, I was all the way down to first base and I was excited that it did [get out]. I grazed [the base], but I went back just to make sure I got it, and then kept going. It was embarrassing, but that makes it fun. It lightens the mood."

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