Reliever Michael Gonzalez was signed to a two-year, $12 million deal before the 2010 season to serve as the Orioles' closer. A year later, his name is barely mentioned in the discussion of manager Buck Showalter's closer options. And that's just fine with Gonzalez, who is focused on staying healthy and fulfilling his contract
"[My role] has changed, but I feel good about the situation," Gonzalez said. "I'm at the point right now where I feel that I want to prove in any way possible that I'm good and I'm healthy, and it's more myself than anything else. I'm just excited about coming in here and getting going."
Gonzalez, who said throughout last spring training that he wasn't hurt despite his diminished velocity, had a disastrous start to the 2010 season. He blew save opportunities in two of his first three outings. He then went on the disabled list with a strained left shoulder and missed about three months.
"Well, obviously, last year was more of a nightmare to me, especially starting the year," Gonzalez said. "It was one of those things where you're fighting yourself. You always want to be healthy, and you always want to be able to go out there and prove what you're able to do. I was fighting myself, and it came back and bit me in the butt, but it's one of those things where I've got to put the past behind me, and I'm looking forward to what I can do this year."
When he returned from the disabled list, Gonzalez pitched to a 1.76 ERA in his first 18 appearances. In 26 games after the All-Star break, he had a 2.78 ERA.
"It was one of those positive notes where I wish the season had kept going," he said. "I wish I had gotten another month just because I felt good, but I didn't feel great. My velocity started coming up, my stuff was better, but it wasn't to the Gonzalez that I'm used to, when I just know I can go out there and get it done. I'm looking forward to going out there and getting it done this year."
It's expected that Gonzalez will serve as a setup man to either Koji Uehara or Kevin Gregg, though Showalter hasn't established bullpen roles.
"We've got some great arms, man," Gonzalez said. "And, obviously, it's going to help a lot with the starting rotation. You've got some experience, you've got some live arms. It's definitely an upgrade from last year. I'm looking forward to it."
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