Johnson named closer; Gregg's role unclear

Johnson named closer; Gregg's role unclear

BBALTIMORE -- Manager Buck Showalter officially named Jim Johnson the Orioles' closer on Friday afternoon, news that was hardly a shock but still significant given that Showalter had declined all spring to formally appoint Johnson the ninth-inning man.

"It won't be an easy job," Showalter said of the role formerly held by Kevin Gregg. "He'll have some times where he won't be aesthetically pleasing or whatever you want to call it, but Jimmy showed us last year that he's capable of doing it."

Johnson -- who was slowed this spring with a lower back injury -- converted his final eight saves last season and progressed in his final exhibition outings. The 28-year-old right-hander was away from the team for two days for the birth of his son on Tuesday, and Johnson rejoined the O's for Thursday's workout.

"He texted me something about the baby and something else, and I said, 'Congratulations. And by the way, you're closing,'" Showalter said. "And he said, 'Yeah, I know.'"

The news wasn't a shock to Gregg, who spoke to Showalter many times this spring and is well aware of his name dominating trade rumors.

"I knew that [Johnson would be the closer]," said Gregg, who converted 22 of 29 save opportunities last year. "I'm going to be [politically correct]. I'm here to help the team. I'll pitch whenever Buck needs me to pitch."

Pressed further on if he's OK with not closing, Gregg said, "Do I have a choice? It's not like I dictate when I'll pitch."

With relievers Matt Lindstrom, Pedro Strop and Luis Ayala, Showalter has some options to bridge to Johnson and was vague when asked what Gregg's role will be moving forward.

"Certainly pitching late in the ballgames is one of them," Showalter said. "We've got a lot of options there."