George Sherrill: Closer Rebounding from Rough Start

Bleacher Report Senior Writer IJune 28, 2009

NEW YORK - JULY 15:  American League All-Star George Sherrill #52 of the Baltimore Orioles delivers a pitch against the National League All-Stars during the 79th MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium on July 15, 2008 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Somewhere, Bill Bavasi is crying his eyeballs out. On Feb. 9, 2008, Bavasi decided it'd be wise to trade his two most prized prospects in outfielder Adam Jones and Chris Tillman, along with minor leaguers Kam Mickolio, Tony Butler, and relief pitcher George Sherrill.

"I know it seems like a long time coming, but these are high-stakes deals. And we are getting one hell of a player," Bavasi, then the Seattle Mariners GM, said. It didn't work out for Bavasi and the Mariners—to any degree.

Adam Jones is having a superb season in center field for the O's, with a .309 average, 12 homers, and 44 RBI. Tillman is the O's No. 2 overall prospect, and ranks 16th in all of baseball. So far in Triple-A Norfolk, he is living up to it. He has a 2.59 ERA, and has done a great job improving his command, with 70 strikeouts and only 18 walks.

Kam Mickolio appears to be the future Orioles closer. He is doing a very good job with Norfolk, as he has a solid 3.30 ERA, 31 strikeouts and just nine walks, and a 0.79 ERA in his last 10 appearances. So far, Butler is the only player who hasn't yet panned out for the O's. Injuries have ruined his last two seasons, and he has yet to advance past Low-A ball.

As for Erik Bedard, he is 11-6 in two years with the Mariners. Not bad, not bad at all. However, it is bad considering the Mariners treated Bedard as if Roy Halladay when they traded away their two top prospects and most reliable reliever in Sherrill.

Bedard even had a solid start to the 2009 season, with a 5-2 record and 2.47 ERA, but made another trip to the DL on June 8 with left shoulder inflammation. Bedard would go to the 15-day DL.

What else is new?

When you look at the degree of how well Jones and Tillman have panned out for the organization, the success of George Sherrill is somewhat ignored. However, it shouldn't be.

In 31 appearances this year, the 32-year-old left hander is 0-1 with a 2.05 earned run average, 16 saves in 18 chances, a .195 opponent's batting average and 27 strikeouts, compared to just nine walks.

The 2008 All Star came into the 2009 season very shaky, to say the least. After his first 11 appearances, he was 0-1, had a shaky 5.06 earned run average, and had already blown two saves.

Since then, he's been absolute dynamite. In his last 20 appearances, he has pitched 20 frames, allowed just seven hits, one run, has walked six, and has struck out 18 batters. As far as saves go, he is 12-for-12, and has lowered his ERA from 5.06 to a shade above two, at 2.05.

With the way Jones has performed this year in the majors and the way the young Tillman is progressing in the minors, it seems Sherrill doesn't get the credit he deserves. After blowing two saves early in the year, he is 0-0 with a 0.45 ERA and 12 saves in as many attempts.

Some who were ready to demote him to the lefty specialist role or even trade him are now eating their words. Now, there is discussion that Sherrill will again be the lone Orioles All-Star representative.

While other O's like Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Brian Roberts also deserve at least discussion, Sherrill looks like the best closer in all of baseball over the last two months.

While fans should be impressed with Sherrill's recent performance, O's manager Dave Trembley has reason to believe the second half will be even better. "He's had a lot more days off this year between outings this year—which I believe has helped him," Trembley said. "Which I believe will help him the second half of the season. His arm should be fresher and stronger."

It's almost impossible to believe, but Sherrill's stats to date are better than that of Mariano Rivera, Bobby Jenks, Brian Fuentes, Brian Wilson, Francisco Cordero, and even Jonathan Broxton. I'm sure Bill Bavasi and the Mariners never thought Sherrill would break out - but why not? After all, in 2007, Sherrill had a solid 0.99 WHIP, 2.36 ERA, and three saves in four attempts in his last year with the Seattle Mariners.

With Baltimore, he has proven that sometimes, a change of scenery is necessary for individual success.