Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Closer Emerges in Baltimore?

David Ginsburg, the AP Sports Writer, reported this afternoon at around 2pm that the Baltimore Orioles optioned Kam Mickolio and brought up hard-throwing Alfredo Simon, adding that Dave Trembley "did not rule out the possibility of ultimately employing him as a closer."

Of course, I did not get the story directly from Mr Ginsburg nor the various RSS feed, Facebook posts, Tweets, Google News, nor telepathy from the Magical Muse of Fantasy Baseball in this afternoon, but only when I tuned into WJZ-FM after finding out that Trembley had summoned the "services" of Jim Johnson in the 8th inning to preserve the 2-run lead over the New York Yankees.

The announcement of Simon warming up in the bullpen with the Orioles leading in the bottom of the 8th placed me in a scramble. Who else is listening to this Orioles game? Are my rival managers watching this Yankees game? Who the HELL is this SEE-moan guy?

I couldn't even go directly to the Yahoo! player pool because I didn't even know how to spell SEE-moan. Is that with a C or an S?!

As I Googled "alfredo simone" I realized that I could've just gone to Y! directly and looked up "alf". Right.

Anyway, after this slight bit of self-caused drama, this Alfredo Simon guy was mine on Y!, complete with the fresh meat red NA underneath his name.

Now it was all about sweating through a save situation, against the top of the Yankees lineup.

Sure, Fantasy Baseball stats were not at risk, but the anticipation of snagging a rightful closer - after missing out (thank God) on Jim Johnson and wasting bench space on the likes of Cla Meredith and Kam Mickolio - was buzz worthy. No, I have no faith in Mike Gonzalez as a closing solution for the Orioles, healthy or not.

Simon struck out Curtis Granderson to start his 2010 MLB debut. Not bad. 96 MPH fastball. Looking.

Then Nick Swisher smacked a fastball right up the middle for a single. Uh-oh.

Unfazed, though, Simon pitched well enough against Nick Johnson, but Johnson patiently battled and coaxed a base on balls.

Despite owning Derek Jeter as my starting shortstop, I had to root against him, with two runners on base. I'll take a new closer over a three-run shot, thank you. After a mound visit from pitching coach Rick Kranitz, Simon got ahead in the count quickly then eventually struck out Jeter swinging on a 1-2 count with a 91 MPH slider. Yes, just one more out!

But things got worse (than allowing the tying run to get to the plate): Caesar Izturis was dead-bent on preventing the Orioles from winning a game with a successful save conversion. He charged a weak grounder from Brett Gardner without picking up the ball and the error allowed Swisher to score from second base.

The Orioles' two-run lead shrank to just one with Alex Rodriguez at the plate after Mark Teixeira, slowly awaking from his Spring slumber, cracked a hard liner for a single and scoring pinch runner Ramiro Pena. Big time Uh-Oh.

Thankfully my starting third baseman had his FB manager's interest in mind, as he grounded out to a fielder's choice to end the game. A-Rod, now I fully forgive you for forsaking my Mariners!

So, what have we learned from tonight's performance by the newcomer Alfredo Simon?

The big right hander from Dominican Republic is big (6'4", 230 LB) and throws hard (95-97). He also has a good change and a power slider.The WJZ-FM announcer said, "His stuff looks like closer's stuff. His body looks like a closer's body."

Simon, who turns 29 this May, started in three games and pitched out of the bullpen in his last appearance (4/25) for Triple-A Norfolk, posting great numbers of 1.59 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 14 K in 17 IP, holding a .238 BAA. On the other hand, he is coming off an elbow surgery in May of 2009 and posted 1:1 ground out to fly out ratio.

Kevin Goldstein tweeted the following:
#Orioles call up RHP Alfredo Simon. He was 95-97 mph the other day; scout said he still "gets tight" in clutch situations.
Not quite the ringing endorsement for Simon from Goldstein, but what we saw on the mound, in a pressure-packed Izturis-sabotage save situation against the top of the lineup of a division powerhouse Yankees, was a very strong and calmly composed pitcher who got the job done.

New closer crowned in Baltimore?

At least until and after Mike Gonzalez comes back then blows another handful of save situations.

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