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Kevin Gregg's rocky outing prompts questions

The boos that Orioles reliever Kevin Gregg received when he was introduced Sunday afternoon at the Rogers Centre actually seemed to be a decibel level higher than the ones he received from Orioles fans on Opening Day.

Gregg, who saved a career-high 37 games with the Jays in 2010, obviously didn’t leave a favorable impression.

But after Gregg’s outing north of the border in the Orioles’ 9-2 loss to the Jays, you could hear the boos all the way from Baltimore.

Gregg allowed five runs to be scored while he was on the mound during a seven-run sixth inning Sunday. For the first six hitters he faced, he allowed two doubles, two walks, a single and a hit batter. A one-run game quickly became a rout.

“Really?” Gregg said Sunday when asked if his outing was disappointing. “I gave up three runs or four runs or whatever it was. That’s obviously disappointing I think.”

Granted that being a big league closer, the role Gregg has spent most of his career in, is much like being an NFL place kicker. You’re more noticed for your miscues for your successes – especially when things are going bad.

And unfortunately for Gregg -- now removed from the closer's role -- there’s not much success to draw from in 2012.

His horrendous showing in Toronto on Sunday, in which he allowed three runs plus two inherited runners to score while he was on the mound, follows up Wednesday’s 6-4 extra-inning loss to the Yankees, when he allowed a decisive two-run homer to Nick Swisher in the 10th inning.

This isn’t an easy situation for Gregg. In a bullpen full of different roles, Gregg’s is by far the least defined. His sixth-inning appearance was the earliest he’s been in a game since 2007. And at this point, he's not a long reliever. That second inning of work against the Yankees made that pretty clear.

We can’t say the Orioles are just saving Gregg for garbage time, because Gregg came into a 3-2 game on Sunday needing just one out to get out of the inning.

And maybe Orioles manager Buck Showalter trusted Gregg could get one out against a No. 9 hitter in Jeff Mathis, a career .194 hitter who was 0-for-1 against Gregg.

However, the next batter Gregg faced, leadoff hitter Yunel Escobar, was 4-for-7 against Gregg. And Escobar’s two-run double opened the flood gates for the Blue Jays, giving Toronto a 6-2 lead.

Gregg is making $5.8 million this year, the sixth-highest paid player on the club. And there’s no secret that the Orioles were not only willing to trade Gregg, but also eat part of his contract.

But in a bullpen in flux – one that has no true long reliever and no situational lefty – Gregg’s spot in the pen might be more valuable than any dollar figure.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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