Kevin Gregg just isn't getting the job done for the Orioles in the ninth inning.
How much longer until Kevin Gregg is unseated as the Baltimore Orioles' closer?
Okay, so he has never officially been named the team's closer and it's still really early in the year.
But to me, a guy with a 3.51 ERA and six blown saves last season isn't the kind of guy you want to hand the ball to with a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth—especially when he walks 30 over 59 innings pitched.
I was happy with the signing when it was announced that Gregg would become a Bird. He's a solid bullpen arm with a great bulldog mentality. He can be a leader in a mainly young bullpen.
But he can't be trusted to close. He just can't.
I had thought that as soon as I saw his signing. And I have since been proven right so far this season.
His first save opportunity as an O came in just the second game of this young season against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
With the O's up 3-1, Gregg was called in from the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth to deliver the O's their second straight win to begin the year.
But Gregg didn't want to make it easy, allowing two men to get on a bringing everyone to the edges of their seats on the last play of the game.
Who would you have closing game if you were the Orioles' manager?
Two men were on, and the Rays' super utility man Ben Zobrist drilled one to the wall in right, a hit which everyone in the ball park and watching their TV's thought to be out of the park, a walk-off homer.
Instead, it fell just short, and without right fielder Nick Markakis' incredible catch, the game would have been tied up at 3. Instead, the O's walked away with a much-deserved win.
Fast forward to the final game of a three-game set against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, just four nights ago.
Taking a close 5-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth, Gregg was brought in to finish the job. So what does he do? First pitch to Jorge Posada: Heater, right down the middle. Posada then quickly and efficiently parked in the seats to tie the game up.
One inning later, lefty reliever Michael Gonzalez gives up the game with a walk-off sac fly to Nick Swisher.
That night at Yankee Stadium was arguably the game that caused the team morale to sink, sending them on such a downward spiral.
Then there's tonight's game. Game 1 of a four-game set against the Minnesota Twins at Camden Yards.
With the O's down 3-2 going into the top of the ninth, manager Buck Showalter did what any other manager would have done and brought in his closer to keep the game at it's current score.
Except, Buck's closer isn't like any other manager's closer.
First batter is issued a walk. Gregg then gets the next batter to fly out to center field, but proceeds to give up two consecutive singles and a walk, allowing two runs to score, before getting the final two outs of the inning.
In the bottom half of the inning with one out left in the game, Luke Scott pinch-hits for the light-hitting Robert Andino, and sends a solo shot into the right-center field bleachers.
Unfortunately, that was all the Orioles could muster during the inning, losing the game 5-3.
If Gregg had just done his job and held the Twins to the three runs they had, Scott would have tied up the game and there would have been free baseball in Baltimore, giving the team a chance to half their losing streak.
Now, they have lost eight in a row, now with a record of 6-9 after starting the year a very strong 6-1.
If Gregg's numbers last year weren't enough for you to think that the man shouldn't be closing games for his team, his disastrous start to this season should pretty much seal the deal.
Look, I like having him on this team. He'd be great for us as a seventh or eighth inning guy. But he shouldn't be handed the ball in the ninth.
Give the job to Koji Uehara. I know I said differently at the end of the 2010 season, but I really think now that he'd do a good job.
And if he can't go back-to-back nights, have Gregg and Gonzalez be the backup closers depending on who's due up for the opposing team.
Just please, take the ball away from Gregg with a slim lead in the ninth.