Lauren Tilley: And the Orioles' closer in 2012 should be ...

OK, before I tell you who I think the closer should be for next season, let me just preface it with a few things. Before you scream so much that spit and food crumbs end up splattered all over your computer screen, before you send me hate comments and before you send bombs to my family through your computer screen (I'm sure that piece of technology has already been created), hear me out. Read what I have to say and let me defend myself. Oh, and don't forget to breathe.

Are you ready? Sitting down? Breathing? Next season, the closer for the Orioles should be ... drum roll ... .breathe ... Michael Gonzalez. Gasp! I know he's been put in that role before and failed miserably, but that was after pitching coaches got him to change his entire mound stance and execution. After that, he actually looked normal on the mound, but couldn't get anyone out to save his life. However, the old Gonzalez with the crazy stance, awkward windup and release, and fall-off-the-mound-every-time follow-through is back and shutting down every batter he faces as easy as 1-2-3.

He hasn't given up a run (earned or not) since July 18 against the Red Sox, where he gave up three. Since then, he's pitched 12 1/3 innings and given up five hits total, all in separate outings. In addition, he's only walked one batter. If that's not enough, here come the real mind-blowing stats: He's lowered his ERA from 5.82 to 4.27 and struck out 14 batters, all of them coming in 8 1/3 innings of work in August.

Gonzalez has done a complete 180-degree turn from the reliever we knew for most of the past two seasons. I remember a few months ago ranting on Birds Watcher about why in the world this guy was getting paid $6 million a season to do nothing but make the team worse. Now that he's back to being the shutdown southpaw that he is, I take all that back and hope that the Orioles keep him on the roster and put him in that critical ninth inning role next season. I truly think he's ready for it now. Every time he faces a batter, there's a huge chance that he will whiff the poor guy at the plate.

Gonzalez is back and should be the closer next season. Re-sign him. Anyone is better than Kevin Gregg right now, right?

Lauren Tilley blogs about the Orioles for Birds Watcher, and her thoughts on the O's appear here 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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