Showalter confirms Johnson is closer

Orioles manager Buck Showalter won’t keep his ninth-inning specialist a mystery. No need to wait until someone starts warming to figure out who’s closing.

Showalter confirmed today that Jim Johnson will be the closer.

Johnson, who converted his final eight save chances last season, received the news in an unorthodox manner.

“He texted me something about the baby and something else, and I said, ‘Congratulations. And by the way, you’re closing.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I know,’” Showalter said.

Johnson allowed six runs and seven hits, and walked six batters, in eight spring innings. I’m not counting his start against Florida Southern, when he retired the side in order in the first.

Johnson, who was slowed early in camp by lower-back stiffness, had to pass certain tests before Showalter was ready to anoint him the closer.

“The last two or three outings,” Showalter said. “I wasn’t worried. He just wasn’t quite in ... it was kind of like the same thing with Nick (Markakis) because it’s kind of uncharted. You hadn’t seen them go through that early. But he started getting his legs under him. He was able to do a lot of work in the weight room and conditioning that he wasn’t able to do for about a month. He’s strong now.

“It won’t be an easy job. He’ll have some times where he won’t be aesthetically pleasing or whatever you want to call it, but Jimmy showed us last year that he’s capable of doing it.”

Kevin Gregg, who lost the closer’s job last season, will be used in a variety of roles.

“Certainly pitching late in the ballgames is one of them,” Showalter said. “We’ve got a lot of options there.”

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