Gregg wants to be part of Orioles' turnaround
Despite down season, right-hander wants closer's job again
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Reliever Kevin Gregg isn't immune to the trade rumors that have surrounded him for months, but he wants to remain with the Orioles and help the organization turn things around.
"When I signed here last year, I signed with the intention of competing for the closer's role, and that's my intention right now," said Gregg. "If [executive vice president of baseball operations Dan] Duquette and [manager] Buck [Showalter] end up coming across a deal that they feel is best for the organization, then I deal with it. But right now, I want to be an Oriole. I want to play for these guys, I want to be a part of this team. That's the reason I signed here last year, to be a part of this team -- a team that is working forward.
"I wasn't blind to the fact that this team was a work in progress, and that's part of what drew me here. [I wanted] to be a part of it," Gregg said of an Orioles club that finished 69-93 last year. "Did we stub our toe last year? Yes. But do I think there's still a lot of potential in this clubhouse? Yes."
Gregg, who signed a two-year, $10 million deal with a vesting option for 2013, was frequently the subject of fan's frustration. As one of Baltimore's biggest offseason moves prior to the 2011 season, the right-hander appeared in 63 games, converted 22 of 29 save opportunities and issued a career-high 40 walks. While Gregg had stretches of effectiveness -- posting a 2.45 ERA in June and recording a save in four consecutive appearances earlier in the season -- he pitched to a 7.36 ERA in his final 17 outings, giving way to Showalter using Jim Johnson in the ninth inning.
Asked what he envisions his role being this season, Gregg deferred to his manager.
"If I got to make the roles, obviously I would pick what I want to pick, but Buck makes that decision," Gregg said. "I am working on some things, trying to make myself better from last year, trying to help the team get better. And the bottom line is as much as my year was a down year per se, I still think there's some credibility that I've had 60 saves in the AL East in the last two years."
So does he believe his track record is enough to assume the closers' role again?
"Hopefully you don't use last year's track record, because that wasn't my best showing," said Gregg, who blew at least one save in each month except July, allowing a run or more in 19 of 63 appearances. "The fact that I had 37 saves the year before [for Toronto], there are other things that doesn't accounted for, things that we do on the field. I think at times last year I put a lot of pressure on myself because we weren't coming across a lot of wins. A lot of my save situations were one run, and there was a lot of added pressure to it. And I think I may have been trying too hard to preserve it, because it wasn't coming at a regular clip -- the chance to win games."
To his credit, Gregg is making adjustments, most notably moving more toward first base on the rubber. The change may seem slight, but it's considerable given that he's stood in the same spot "for 15 years." Why the move? Gregg, who gives what he calls a brief geometry lesson in arm angles and planes, hopes it will allow his pitches to stay on the plate longer. He issued at least one walk in 27 outings last season, frequently working from behind or in three-ball counts.
"As many [pitches] as I had last year that just missed off the plate, I'm just trying to get them to be on the plate that much longer," said Gregg, who is also working on his two-seamer and how he picks up his leg to start his delivery."
Since the Orioles suffered another losing season last year, Gregg thinks there are "things to improve on for pretty much everybody."
"It's not just an individual thing," said Gregg. "As a team, I think we have a lot of things we need to improve on. We are all on the rebound, we all have high expectations, so I think it's a little bit harder to swallow a season in which you come out and lose that many games. We are trying to get ourselves better in everything -- starting pitching, relief pitching, middle guys in the bullpen, everybody across the board we want to get better. We need to get better."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.