Trembley to try closer-by-committee
Sherrill to share duties with Ray, Johnson and others
ST. PETERSBURG -- Credit Dave Trembley with his first reversal of the year. The Orioles manager elected to deviate from his plan and from conventional wisdom Monday, when he announced for the second time in as many days that he'll start to edge away from George Sherrill and toward a closer-by-committee approach.
Trembley may still use Sherrill -- who has blown two of his six save opportunities -- in the ninth inning, but he'll also use Chris Ray and Jim Johnson depending on the opponent and the circumstances. Trembley had previously favored decided roles for each of his relievers, but now he'll try something else entirely.
"I'm going to play the ninth inning as a day-by-day situation and do what I think is best to try and win the game," Trembley said. "I think sometimes it depends on the score and also depends on who's available and who's pitching well. And I also think sometimes you have to go away from the norm a little when things aren't going well for you. And right now, things aren't going well for us. I think it's important to do something different."
The Orioles headed into Tampa Bay with a six-game losing streak, but not all of that is easily lumped on the bullpen. Baltimore's starting pitchers have won just two games since April 14, and the Orioles are 3-14 over that span. The relief staff, however, has a 6.22 ERA that stands below all but two other American League teams.
Part of that, of course, falls on the shoulders of the team's relief ace. Sherrill, who saved 28 games in the first half last year, has just four saves this season and just one in the last three-plus weeks. The southpaw has allowed opposing hitters to bat .326 against him through his first 11 appearances this season.
And Trembley, when he looks at his relief staff, sees no reason to stand pat. He has confidence in Ray, a former closer who lost his job due to injury, and Johnson, who has taken well to a setup job. And even if things don't work out with either of those arms, Trembley knows he can always go right back to Sherrill.
"I think Johnson is one of those guys," Trembley said. "I'm not excluding George, but I think everybody that has followed the club understands the difference in the right-and-left situations. I'm certainly not trying to be disrespectful at all. I'm very much appreciative of what George has done, but I also think there's other things to consider."
And by the right-and-left situation, Trembley just means a simple matter of reading the splits. Sherrill, who came up as a situational southpaw, has allowed right-handed hitters to bat .394 off him this season. Both Johnson and Ray have their own split-related issues, which is why Trembley can feel free to mix and match.
There is, however, at least one pitcher he won't turn to over the next few weeks. Trembley said that he's been so pleased with Danys Baez -- who has a 1-1 record and a 2.63 ERA through eight appearances -- that he won't risk giving him a more important role and wasting the good work he's gotten from him so far.
"I wouldn't want to take Baez out of what he's been doing," said Trembley of his immediate plans. "I'd rather just keep him where he's at, just keep him progressing. The guy has done a tremendous job."
Baltimore's relief pitchers staged an impromptu meeting of their own on Monday, and Trembley said his team's pre-series meeting to go over Tampa Bay was pretty much business as usual. The manager didn't feel the need to offer any extra motivational message because he thinks his players are all on the same page.
"I think everybody is very much aware of the situation," Trembley said. "Obviously, no one is happy about it, but I think we have to remain positive and just play better. That's all -- just play better. Deal with our frustrations in a better way. Let it happen in a better way all around the baseball field. Nothing unusual today."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.