Last night's 6-2 loss to the Red Sox has to be hung on the bullpen. Brad Bergesen allowed two runs over six innings in his best start of the season, but Jim Johnson and Michael Gonzalez were charged with two runs apiece, and Jason Berken let two inherited runners score.
The offense managed only two runs and four hits, but I wasn't expecting fireworks with Jon Lester on the mound.
Gonzalez was booed as he left it. The heat's no longer on Kevin Gregg.
Not that fans have embraced Gonzalez in the past. This isn't a sudden change in opinion. Those blown saves last April weren't really forgiven, though he pitched extremely well after coming off the disabled list. And it always looks worse because he's falling off the mound while missing the strike zone or getting hit hard.
Here's a cold, hard fact: Gonzalez has registered only one clean outing among his seven appearances.
In his last four, he's allowed six runs and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings, with two walks and two home runs. His ERA ballooned to 13.50 last night.
Here's another cold, hard fact: Manager Buck Showalter has to use the players on his 25-man roster.
He can't shy away from Gonzalez each time a situation cries out for a left-hander, or wait until there's a blowout. It's not like the Orioles aren't playing close games.
Showalter bypassed Gonzalez in Sunday's 11-inning loss, and again Wednesday night, but he eventually has to use the reliever. He can't be saddled with a 24-man roster. Or 23 if you've also lost confidence in Clay Rapada. Or 22 if you feel the same way about Josh Rupe, who gave up two hits in the ninth inning last night, but lowered his ERA to 6.97.
The Orioles could release Gonzalez, but they won't do it. Not one month into the season. Not with Gonzalez making $6 million in 2011.
There's always the chance that Gonzalez, whose fastball hit the mid-90s last night, gets dealt at the non-waiver trade deadline, but he'll need to pitch a heck of a lot better if other teams are going to be interested.
Gonzalez is fair game for anyone looking to vent, but he has to pitch. And it will happen in some tight ballgames. Showalter can't hide him all summer.
He'll fall off the mound, but he's not going to fall off the map.
It's up to Gonzalez to start rewarding Showalter and quieting the boos, as Gregg has done.