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Zrebiec: Jim Johnson A-OK with Gonzalez signing

Orioles reliever Jim Johnson has been busy renovating the bathroom in his Sarasota home, being a father to his baby daughter and starting his offseason throwing program. He pays little attention to any of the transactions during the Hot Stove season, and that includes ones involving his own team.

Johnson had no idea that the Orioles have agreed to terms with left-handed free-agent reliever Mike Gonzalez -- or third baseman Garrett Atkins for that matter -- until he was informed by a reporter late Thursday afternoon. The move certainly affects Johnson, whose brief tenure as the Orioles' closer will likely end with Gonzalez on board.

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"I don't know what their plans are for him, but a left-handed guy who can throw late in the game, that's a pretty good thing to have in any bullpen," Johnson said. "They signed him to help our team. ... If it's a move that makes our team better then, I'm happy. It's fine by me." The Orioles won't publicly anoint Gonzalez as their closer, preferring to make him earn the spot during spring training. However, it's considered little more than a formality as they didn't pay the former Atlanta Braves closer $12 million over two years to serve as a setup man.

Johnson, who inherited the Orioles' closer role when George Sherrill was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in July, went 6 of 9 in save opportunities after the deal was made. He had a 10.61 ERA in 11 games in September/October, although the right-hander disputes the notion that the pressure of being a closer factored in his struggles.

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"It was the whole month of September that I wanted to forget," said Johnson, who lives about 10 minutes away from the Orioles' new spring training complex in Sarasota, and has been working out at Ed Smith Stadium. "It killed my season. That's kind of an incentive for me to really work hard this offseason and make sure I'm ready to take the whole season on. I'm not saying that I wasn't last year, but you can always improve yourself and get better in the offseason."

Asked if he'd be bothered if he was returned to the eighth-inning role, Johnson said, "You have to earn time to play, you have to pitch, you have to get guys out. If you're not doing your job, you're not going to play. That's what it boils down to. It doesn't bother me. It's the fact of life.

"I wouldn't be disappointed. I have to do what I can when I get an opportunity. Nothing is set in stone so we'll see what happens. I'm sure in spring training, some things might change. You never know what's going to happen. You have to be ready."

- Jeff Zrebiec

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