Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com writes that Koji Uehara will head into spring training as the Orioles’ closer despite Baltimore signing Kevin Gregg to a two-year, $10 million contract this offseason.
Gregg has far more closing experience, saving 37 games last season and a total of 121 games during the previous four years, but if healthy Uehara is the guy you’d actually want on the mound with a slim lead in the ninth inning.
Gregg has a 4.03 career ERA, including just one season with a mark under 3.50, while Uehara posted a 2.86 ERA and spectacular 55/5 K/BB ratio in 44 innings last season after moving from the rotation to the bullpen because of injuries. And then there’s Mike Gonzalez, who signed on to be the Orioles’ closer last winter with a two-year, $12 million deal only to miss most of the season with shoulder problems.
Jim Johnson even has some closing experience, so manager Buck Showalter has no shortage of options for the ninth inning, but if everyone is healthy Uehara represents the Orioles’ best chance to have a shutdown closer even if that makes Gregg an extremely overpaid setup man.