Uehara could be O's plan B closer

Uehara could be O's plan B closer

BALTIMORE -- Dave Trembley will continue to use Alfredo Simon as his closer, though the Orioles' manager is intrigued with the notion of running soft-tossing Koji Uehara out to protect a ninth-inning lead because the control-oriented right-hander throws strikes and doesn't waste pitches.

"He's not a strikeout pitcher, he's a flyball pitcher, if you look at his splits," Trembley said. "I don't know if that is your recipe for success if you're a closer,"

Uehara has closed before, and he certainly becomes at least plan B should Simon falter. Simon is 5-for-6 in save opportunities after taking over the role when left-hander Michael Gonzalez and right-hander Jim Johnson were injured.

Since returning from the disabled list on May 6 following a hamstring problem that cropped up in Spring Training, Uehara has been most effective when starting an inning, as opposed to being called upon in the middle of an inning. He has recorded an ERA of 3.00 in four outings covering three innings.

The 35-year-old Uehara, who saved 32 games for the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese League in 2007, would present a contrast in styles from a hard-throwing setup man. And because Uehara recognizes the importance of pitch efficiency, he could be a closer-in-waiting.

Uehara even broached the subject of closing with pitching coach Rick Kranitz in Spring Training, Trembley said.

"[Uehara] usually gets three outs with a minimum of pitches, so I could see it," Trembley said. "And I think he expressed [interest] to Kranny in spring. But we'll see how it goes."

-- Pete Kerzel