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Lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez will arrive in Baltimore Thursday night and take his physical Friday before his two-year, $12 million deal with the Orioles becomes official.

He already can barely contain his enthusiasm.

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"I am real excited," Gonzalez, 31, said in a telephone interview. "I wish it was spring training tomorrow."

Gonzalez, who was 10 of 17 in save chances for the Atlanta Braves last season but was 44 of 49 in past years, said he views himself as a closer, the role he will most likely assume with the Orioles.

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But, he said, he's taking nothing for granted."Every year is a competition, man, as far as I can remember, even back in Little League Baseball everything was a competition," said Gonzalez, a native Texan who was a 30th round draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1997. "If there is no competition, there's no real reward to it."

Although the Orioles won't officially name Gonzalez as their 2010 closer yet, it's highly unlikely Andy MacPhail would give $12 million to a set-up reliever.

"I have never had anything given to me, and I don't expect it will be given to me now," Gonzalez said. "I will go out there, do what I do, and I don't think there will be any question" about his role.

Gonzalez doesn't know many of the current Orioles; he was a teammate of Ty Wigginton's in Pittsburgh and played in the Arizona Fall League years ago with Jeremy Guthrie and Brian Roberts.

But he said he has heard good things about manager Dave Trembley, and, "I definitely see an upside in the team. … That young offense, those guys can hit."

He added that he's not intimidated about playing in the American League East. In fact, he says it's one of the reasons he wanted to come to Baltimore.

"Everyone calls the AL East, 'The Beast,' it's the best division in baseball," Gonzalez said. "And to have an opportunity to go there and get it done against those horses, I definitely take it as a challenge. I have always been a competitive man and I feel really good about that challenge."

-- Dan Connolly

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