Sherrill rocked but not fazed

The Baltimore Sun

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -The Orioles really don't need any more pitching suspense, but closer George Sherrill is providing some anyway.

Sherrill came on in relief of Hayden Penn on Thursday against the Florida Marlins and allowed four straight base runners and two runs before getting the final out of the third inning, which only added to a body of exhibition work that might have manager Dave Trembley wondering whether to stick to his promise to start the season with Sherrill in the primary closer's role.

Sherrill has made six Grapefruit League appearances and given up four earned runs. That might not sound like that many, but in 5 1/3 innings he has allowed 13 hits and 17 base runners. Yet he insists he isn't concerned about his unsettling performance.

"No," he said. "It's usually bad until the last couple of days, and then the mechanics work themselves out. ... Right now, everything just seems to be on one plane. I've thrown some sliders that looked like pretty good pitches, but they put the wood to them. My fastball, instead of going down or staying at eye level, they all seem to be staying right there, down the middle."

Though Sherrill has been designated as the closer, he said he would not complain if Trembley feels more comfortable starting the season with Chris Ray in that role.

Trembley said after the game that he is not going to overreact to Sherrill's rocky spring performance.

"I think in his case, you have to discount spring training," Trembley said. "I think with him, you have to base your decision on what he did last year."

Sherrill battled shoulder fatigue late last season after earning a spot on the American League All-Star team.

Getting close

Reliever Jim Johnson got back onto the mound Thursday to test his sore shoulder and reported no discomfort. If all goes well, he will face hitters Saturday and could get into some exhibition games next week.

"It was pretty much what I expected after not being on a mound for almost two weeks," he said. "I was a little rusty, but we're right on schedule."

No. 2 for Uehara

Koji Uehara is scheduled to start the exhibition game in Norfolk next Friday, which lines him up to start the second game of the season against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards. That's no great surprise because he's considered the No. 2 starter. It also won't be a surprise when Jeremy Guthrie is officially named the Opening Day starter, but Trembley has been reluctant to make that announcement.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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