One of the interesting battles to watch as the Orioles get ready to start spring training will be the battle between Chris Ray and George Sherrill for the closer position.
Sherrill is coming off of a solid season in which he recorded 31 saves and earned a trip to the All-Star Game. He pitched more last year than he had done at any other point in his major-league career, and although he dealt with some shoulder issues late in the season, it was a very impressive season for him. He definitely earned the right to be the closer again for the 2009 Orioles.
In 2006, Chris Ray appeared to be the answer to the question of who was going to replace B.J. Ryan as the Orioles’ closer. Ray had 33 saves and an ERA of 2.73, while allowing opposing batters to just hit .193 off of him. Ray struggled in 2007, including that Mother’s Day Massacre in Boston on May 13. He came into the game with a 5-1 lead and one out in the ninth, only to see it all disappear in almost the blink of an eye.
Ray will be trying to come back after missing all of the 2008 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2007. Ray did pitch some in the minors last year, but the Orioles decided not to call him back up to the roster and have him active last year. Ray will have to prove during spring training that he is healthy and ready to go for the season.
If you are Dave Trembley, do you let these two battle it out to see who will be the closer, and who will be the set up guy? Do you rotate them depending on the game situation?
Whatever they decide to do, this could be one of the strongest parts of the Orioles’ pitching staff.