The first thing I learned about reliever Mike Gonzalez today is he’s obviously done his homework on the Orioles.
“Looking at the lineup, seeing the core, these guys are not just young, but very talented guys,” he said. “You look at the defense. I’ve got a great middle defense up in the front, the middle infield and the outfield. As a pitcher, that’s what you want, that’s what you look for. It seemed like a good fit for me.
“They’re exciting, they’re young, they’re very talented. And it’s going to be a pleasure to work with these guys and be a part of it.”
Gonzalez, who passed his physical today and met with the media in a third-floor conference room at the warehouse, wanted the opportunity to close. He’ll have to compete for the job, according to president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, but Gonzalez isn’t being paid $12 million over the next two years to be a set-up man. He’ll go into spring training with the title of closer.
“Obviously I’ve always felt that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “I feel really comfortable in that position.”
MacPhail rattled off some stats on Gonzalez: Left-handers have hit around .200 against him in his career, including .194 this year. He’s struck out over 28 percent of the batters he’s faced, which ranks 15th among 243 relievers who qualify. But MacPhail also is looking beyond the numbers.
“We paid and continue to pay particular attention to those players who not only are quality contributors on the field, but are really quality character people, who can make our young players understand what it takes to compete and win in the American League,” he said.
“The one constant thing you will always hear about Mike Gonzalez is what a competitor he is, what a good teammate he is - beyond the simple fact that he’s just tough to hit.”
Gonzalez isn’t concerned about switching leagues. And he isn’t afraid of the big, bad AL East.
“The thing I’m excited about is the division I’m going to be playing in,” he said. “Obviously, everybody knows it’s the toughest division in baseball. To be able to face those lineups, I take it as a challenge. I’m a competitor and that’s what I want to do. And this is where you get to show where you’re at.”
Gonzalez was the No. 1 reliever on the Orioles’ board. They still need another left-hander, and MacPhail again brought up Mark Hendrickson’s name.
“He started, he relieved and he did a nice job,” MacPhail said. “He also has that veteran influence that is helpful. I certainly wouldn’t rule that one out.”
Asked about the bullpen, MacPhail said, “I would be surprised if we did a lot real soon. I think we’re at the point we did those things early that we thought needed to be done early, and I think we’re in a position where we can let the market percolate a little bit and see what’s available to us.”