Orioles right-hander Kevin Gregg is not in denial. He acknowledges that it will be up to him to re-establish his late-inning credentials now that manager Buck Showalter has made it clear Jim Johnson is the full-time closer.
"Ideally, my aspirations are to close," Gregg said Monday, "but I'm not blind to the situation I have in front of me here."
That situation still isn't 100 percent clear. Is he a setup man who will close on the days Johnson is not available? Or is he going to be used as a middle reliever in a role that could put him on the mound in just about any situation from the sixth inning through the end of the game?
Showalter isn't saying, but he has indicated that he hopes he'll be in a position to use several of his relievers in tight, late-inning situations, depending on their availability and the circumstances that arise over the course of a long season.
Gregg warmed up and was ready to come in when things got a little dicey for Jason Hammel in the eighth inning of Sunday's near no-hitter. He made his 2012 debut Monday night, entering the game in a mop-up situation with the Orioles down by five runs in the seventh and pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
"Pitching is pitching," Gregg said. "You've got to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. What the future holds, I have no idea. I have to pitch and prove myself again."
There is one thing, however, that Gregg will not be doing. He said Monday that he will not be waiting around for anybody else to fail.
"I don't look at it that way," he said. "J.J.'s really good. I'll root for him and do whatever they need me to do. I hope J.J. ends up with 50 saves. He's a friend of mine. He's a good guy. I hope he has a lot of success."
Taiwanese pitcher Wei-Yin Chen held court briefly with reporters before Monday night's game to talk about his Orioles regular-season debut Tuesday night. He acknowleged he's a little nervous, especially since he's going to be pitching after a nine-day layoff.
"This is a new challenge for me because I've never rested that much, never this many days," he said through an interpreter. "It's a new challenge for me, but I have to adjust. The only thing I want to do is focus on tomorrow's game."
The left-hander will have his hands full with a New York Yankees lineup that includes some of the biggest names in the sport, and he said he is well aware of what he'll be up against when Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter come to the plate.
"I've heard of them," he said. "In Taiwan and Japan, they are really big names, too."
Though there was some early speculation that Chen would make his debut against the Minnesota Twins this past weekend, Showalter said he held him back to the final spot in the rotation to give him more time to adapt to his new surroundings.
"This guy has pitched in some big venues, big crowds in meaningful games," Showalter said. "We think our games are more meaningful, but pitching in the Asian Games and the Olympics … pitching in Japan, the playoffs, there's a lot of relevancy to it. But this is still a little different stage for them, especially when you consider the environment and the soil they're pitching on. So, we're trying to — not delay it — but make sure he gets as many things under his belt so he knows what environment he's going into and has a feel for it."
Wada, Britton updates
Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada threw 88 pitches over six innings in an extended spring training game Monday and experienced no problems. He'll make another extended spring start this weekend against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla., before a decision is made on where he'll go to begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment.
Lefty Zach Britton, who has been rehabilitating his sore shoulder in Sarasota, has been cleared to play catch Thursday.
Around the horn
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jason Hammel became the first pitcher to throw seven or more hitless innings in a team debut since Hideo Nomo no-hit the Orioles in his Boston Red Sox debut in 2001. …. Right fielder Nick Markakis entered Monday's game leading the major leagues with a 2.111 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He also was second in the majors with a 1.444 slugging percentage, third in on-base percentage (.667) and tied for fourth with a .556 batting average.