The Orioles are just four games into the 2010 season and already they face a major crisis.
Can Dave Trembley, or any manager for that matter, change closers before his team completes one turn through the rotation?
Can you do it with someone that signed a two-year, 12 million dollar contract?
First of all, don't blame Trembley for putting his closer in to close. Yankee and Red Sox managers do it all the time.
The facts are that twice Mike Gonzalez came in to protect a one-run lead. He has the job he always wanted and he twice faced the bottom of the order.
If he gets the job done, the O's would be 3-1 and perhaps already creating a little buzz among the fan base. The largest Opening Day crowd in Camden Yards history would have hit the exits last night feeling some hope for this season.
Now what do the O's do?
The popular move among the fan base would be to use anyone but Gonzalez to close the next time. But can you shuffle bullpen roles already and who gets the save shot the next time?
The O's do not have a proven answer for the ninth inning and have said they'd like to keep Jim Johnson in the 8th-inning role. If you shuffle the deck chairs to fix one chair, could you ruin some of the others?
I can't imagine Trembley slept well last night.
By the way, I was surprised at how loudly the fans booed Gonzalez when he ENTERED Friday's game. Yes he had been shaky to start the year, but I can't remember too many times O's fans booed one of their own players like that as he was coming into the game.
There's another factor at work - right now the players seem solidly behind Gonzalez. At some point, though, will they tire of his failings when they work so hard to get the lead to the ninth?
Gonzalez lost four games all of last year, when he went 5-4, 2.42 with Atlanta. For his career he averages allowing just 6.9 hits per nine innings with 4.2 walks and 10.6 strikeouts.
He has often had command issues but has also posted a career ERA of 2.62 with a career save rate of 81 percent.
First order of business should be to locate the problem. Is it mechanics? Is it velocity? Does he have a confidence issue? Is he just pressing too much with a new team? Did Atlanta trade another pitcher right about the time said hurler starts to lose previous effectiveness?
This issue is just so much more complicated than cut him or run him out of here as some fans would say.
Did you know Gonzalez once saved 39 games in a row? I'm not kidding, just look it up in the media guide.
While he was not a regular closer then, from June 25, 2004 to September 9, 2008, he saved 39 in a row without blowing a single one. Mariano Rivera would be proud of that number.
Maybe the answer is to pitch Gonzalez is less stressful spots, such as in a lopsided game, for a week or two to work out whatever problems exist.
What if there are few blowout games, there haven't been any so far.
This team is showing some good signs in the early going, but those two blown saves have been just devastating.
Neither the team nor fans can take many more.