Jim Johnson, not Kevin Gregg, likely to be Orioles’ closer


Earlier this offseason there was some talk about the Orioles possibly moving Jim Johnson into the rotation, but he now seems destined to remain in the bullpen and Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com expects Johnson to be the Opening Day closer.

That could still change if the Orioles acquire a veteran closer, but they whiffed on Huston Street and haven’t been linked to many free agents, leaving Johnson as the obvious in-house option after he converted seven straight save chances in September.

Johnson logged 91 innings in a setup role last season, so moving to closer might actually make him slightly less valuable for the Orioles if they limit him to the role’s usual 60-70 innings.

Another option is Kevin Gregg, who has plenty of closing experience and 144 career saves, but he was a mess in 2011 while saving 22 games and has long been a prime example of save totals being a misleading indicator of reliever ability.

David Phelps to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Pitcher David Phelps has a torn UCL and will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2018 season, the Mariners announced on Wednesday. Phelps was making brief one-inning stints in the Cactus League as he worked his way back from a procedure to remove a bone spur from his elbow last September. He said he felt the ligament tear on his final pitch against the Angels in his March 17 appearance.

Phelps, 31, was expected to set up for closer Edwin Diaz. The right-hander, between the Marlins and Mariners last season, posted a 3.40 ERA with a 62/26 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. He and the Mariners avoided arbitration in January, agreeing on a $5.55 million salary for the 2018 campaign. Phelps will become eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season.

As the Mariners noted in their statement, the expected recovery period for Tommy John surgery is 12-15 months, so this very likely cuts into Phelps’ 2019 season as well.