A day before the deadline for teams to acquire players eligible for the postseason, the Orioles found a taker for left-handed reliever Michael Gonzalez. On Wednesday afternoon, he was dealt in a waiver trade to the Texas Rangers -- who lead the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by 3 1/2 games in the American League West -- for a player to be named later.
"It's kind of a mixed reaction for me right now," Gonzalez told reporters after cleaning out his locker in the Orioles clubhouse. "I'm excited. I'm going to go out there and I'm going to try to win a championship now, especially right now that I'm feeling good. That bad part is, obviously, I wanted to do more here in Baltimore. … I wish I would have been able to do better for the fans and things like that, but it is what it is."
That the Rangers, the runner-up in the 2010 World Series and a contender again this season, expressed an interest says a lot about how well Gonzalez is pitching. It also says something about his perseverance.
Gonzalez has been a popular target of frustrated Orioles fans since he faltered in the closer's role during the first week of the 2010 season. He also got off to a shaky start this season, the second of a two-year, $12 million deal, and had a 5.46 ERA in 31 1/3 innings before the All-Star break.
But he bounced back in the second half, holding opposing hitters to a .154 batting average while posting a 1.80 ERA. The 33-year-old hasn't allowed a run in 13 consecutive appearances dating back to July 22.
"He stayed headstrong," closer Kevin Gregg said. "He believes in himself and that confidence, it came out and allowed him to showcase who he is as a pitcher here in Baltimore. Unfortunately, for the first year and a half, Orioles fans didn't get a chance to see his full potential. We got a glimpse of it here lately."
Manager Buck Showalter said the trade could potentially help both the Orioles and the Rangers.
"Gonzo is going to be a really nice piece for Ron Washington and the Rangers," Showalter said. "He's pitching as good as any American League reliever, left-hander, reliever period. They're catching him at a great time. He's familiar with the American League, so there should be little transition. He's obviously familiar with the state of Texas. So it's a really good situation for them."
Gonzalez exchanged hugs, high-fives and phone numbers with some of his now-former teammates before Wednesday night's game against the Toronto Blue Jays. He thanked president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail for giving him an opportunity to pitch for the Orioles. And on multiple occasions, he expressed regret that he didn't show this city what he was fully capable of until the past few weeks.
"That was the most frustrating for me, that I was obviously brought here to help the team win in those types of situations," Gonzalez said. "And not being able to do that was tough for me."
He'll now get a chance to help the Rangers win a title alongside former Orioles reliever Koji Uehara. And when he hits the free-agent market at season's end, Gonzalez, a Texas native, didn't rule out returning to Baltimore.
"I'd love to show them what I'm capable of doing when I'm healthy. Yeah, of course," Gonzalez said before slipping out of his Orioles gear for perhaps the last time. "Everything about [Baltimore] is great."