Anthony Amobi: Gonzalez an example of risk not yielding reward

It's no mystery to anyone that reliever Mike Gonzalez has had his share of struggles as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.

When Gonzalez signed with the team before last season, I thought it was a decent signing at the time despite the money involved.

Baltimore needed bullpen help after yet another lackluster season in 2009 and I thought that Gonzalez fit the bill. The southpaw reliever had a solid track record in the National League with Pittsburgh and Atlanta, so one would think he certainly be able to replicate it in the American League.

Although Gonzalez always had that weird, herky-jerky motion on the mound that rattled my mind, the guy was deceptive and got people out. He was not a star, but at the same time was a very good relief pitcher that could finish off a game or at very least serve as a bridge to a team's closer.

So far with the Orioles, Gonzalez has been a disappointment.

Once again last night against the Red Sox, the southpaw struggled on the mound. It's fairly obvious that Orioles manager Buck Showalter has not used Gonzalez in key situations in the past week; however, he was used in the eighth inning of the final game of the Red Sox series to get some work and give him a chance to succeed.

Gonzalez, in his outing, only got one out against a tough and gritty lineup full of professional hitters. He was charged with two runs, gave up a two singles, walked one and struck out one and once again was booed off the mound by Orioles fans in attendance.

I'm sure most of us don't know what to think about Gonzalez. At the moment, he looks like a pitcher who's lost and is trying to find his way. It seems that he's struggled from the moment since he's put on an Orioles uniform and has earned the ire of many fans in Birdland.

On opening day in 2010, I remember talking to another Orioles fan who about Gonzalez. If you recall, he was literally booed off the mound by seemingly everyone in the sold-out crowd that day. I remarked to a fan next to me who was bashing him without mercy by saying, "Um, I think he's hurt".

I added (and paraphrasing), "I have watched too much baseball over the years and I have seen this guy on the mound. Something isn't right."

Sure enough, it was not.

Gonzalez was hurt during spring training and then was disastrous in the first week of the season. Sadly, he had a small role - with a couple of blown saves against the Rays - that led to an infamous and horrendous stretch for the Orioles in 2010.

After working his way back during a rehabilitation assignment in the minors, Gonzalez came back toward the end of last season in a non-pressurized role in the bullpen and was decent.

Now that we are in 2011, Gonzalez is still not that same pitcher that he was in the National League.

He may never be.

His mechanics right now on the mound look worse than ever. For a while, Gonzalez looked absolutely lost and if you watched him, your mind was thinking, "I don't think this guy has an idea where the ball is going."

I'll say again, I'm not sure what to think. I do feel bad for the man.

I'm sure that many fans want him released now, traded or just gone; however, the only way he can ever remotely start to improve is get his work in and be productive.

Well, I am an optimist and hope that Gonzalez will work through his issues and help the Orioles. It needs to happen.

The reality of the situation is that Baltimore will never get back the money they gave Gonzalez. Nor will the reliever ever perform to the value of his contract.
Sometimes, it's a risk when you sign a reliever to a healthy deal.

Gonzalez is proof of it.

Anthony Amobi blogs about the Orioles at Oriole Post. His observations about the O's have appeared this week as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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