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Showalter exploring his closer options

Showalter exploring his closer options

CLEVELAND -- Alfredo Simon -- who blew his fourth save opportunity on Monday -- hasn't been relieved of his closing duties, but Orioles manager Buck Showalter said prior to Tuesday's game that he'd like to "spread around" who he hands the ball to in a save situation.

When pressed to clarify what he meant by "spread around" opportunities, Showalter said he would evaluate each save situation separately and go with whatever fits.

"I'm sure Simon will get some more opportunities along the way, but I feel like we have some other people capable of doing it other than him," Showalter said. "We'll see what each night dictates.

"Some guys down there have shown that they are capable of getting big outs for us."

Chief among them has been Koji Uehara, who has allowed just one earned run in his last 11 outings, a stretch of 12 2/3 innings. Thought to be a secret weapon for the 'pen this spring, Uehara started the season on the disabled list -- where he spent two separate stints -- and has also been affected by heat issues. He's come into his own recently, tying a season-high with two scoreless innings in Monday's win over the White Sox and striking out three over 1 1/3 innings against the Angels on Wednesday.

"I think it's kind of evolving," Showalter said of Uehara's role in the bullpen, which he has discussed frequently with pitching coach Rick Kranitz.

"We have communication with him on how he's feeling. He's pitched for quite a while and we trust him on that. But at the same time, he seems to have -- knock on wood -- most of that stuff behind him. It's been good for him. He's pitching to his potential right now."

Michael Gonzalez is also an option to spell Simon -- who has allowed four earned runs over his last 4 2/3 innings. Given that was what Gonzalez was signed to do this offseason, Showalter will likely give him an extended look. Gonzalez has a 2.00 ERA in his first nine innings since coming off the 60-day DL with a left shoulder strain and has allowed one run over three frames on the Orioles' seven-game homestand.

Still, Gonzalez (0-2, 4.91 ERA) converted just one of three saves before hitting the DL and Simon -- who has 17 of the Orioles' 22 saves this year -- has filled in better than anyone expected. Just over a year removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, Simon -- a converted starter -- had his contract purchased from Triple-A Norfolk on April 27 and recorded a save against the Yankees later that night.

"He has above-average pitches but he's still got to locate them, too," Showalter said of Simon (3-2, 4.62 ERA), who has given up a homer in each of his last two save opportunities. "Guys can turn around a bullet up here."

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