O's call up Simon to bolster bullpen

O's call up Simon to bolster bullpen

BALTIMORE -- Alfredo Simon would like the Orioles closer's job, and manager Dave Trembley wouldn't come right out and say it, but the right-hander figures to get the ball the next time a ninth-inning need arises.

"I knew before the game he was going to close it," Trembley said of Simon, who maneuvered around the heart of the Yankees' order to pick up his first career save in the Orioles' 5-4 win on Tuesday night. Simon entered the game just hours after his contract was purchased and he officially joined the big league club.

"I had nothing to lose putting Simon in. I talked to him before the game, and I asked him one question and one question only, 'Are you scared?' And he said 'No.' And that's all I had to hear."

Simon came on in the ninth inning, tasked with protecting the Orioles' three-run lead, and he established himself right away with a strikeout of Curtis Granderson. Simon allowed a hit to Nick Swisher and issued a full-count walk to Nick Johnson to bring Yankees captain Derek Jeter to the plate. A power pitcher, Simon used a fastball that topped at 97 mph to set up a 91-mph slider and send Jeter down swinging for the inning's second out.

He nearly ended the game with Brett Gardner's ensuing grounder, a play so routine that center fielder Adam Jones admitted he had already started running back to the dugout. But Gardner's ball eluded shortstop Cesar Izturis, allowing Swisher to score. The Yankees closed the lead to one with Mark Teixeira's hit, but that's as close as they would get. Late-game replacement Julio Lugo made a stop up the middle on Alex Rodriguez's ball and shuffled it to Izturis to beat Teixeira by a half-step and end the game.

"I am here to help this team," said Simon, who was taken out of Triple-A Norfolk's starting rotation and moved to the bullpen about 10 days ago. "They have to decide whether they want me to be the closer or not."

"I'd like to [do] it, because I am a power pitcher and I think I've got the stuff to be a closer."

He's not the only one. Trembley said the team switched the 28-year-old Simon, who was 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA in four Triple-A games (three starts) to the 'pen because the organization believes he can be a ninth-inning guy. With closer Mike Gonzalez on the disabled list (left shoulder strain) and not expected to begin a throwing program until at least Monday, the Orioles' bullpen has struggled to nail down the later innings.

"We're going to give guys opportunities and I'm going to try to slot guys back in the roles where they're best suited, not only for themselves but for the club," Trembley said. "I've had guys put in situations because of injuries and decisions that are made, and they've done the very best they can, but it's been an uncomfortable situation for them. And that's my fault, but I've gone with the best that I've had. Now, I feel like I'm getting some help."

That help is coming from the unlikeliest of places. Simon underwent Tommy John surgery to reconstruct the ligament in his right elbow on May 5, 2009, and the fact that he is throwing with velocity in the upper 90s -- and now has been called up to the Majors -- is no small feat.

"I think it's an incredible story," Trembley said. "The guy was full-go the very first day [of Spring Training]. He is strong physically and mentally. He wants to be here."

When asked if he would hand the ball to Simon if needed on Wednesday, Trembley said he will see how Simon's arm feels, given that he threw 29 pitches, the majority of which were his blistering fastball.

"I'm sure he probably put as much effort and energy into it [as possible]," Trembley said. "He's never done it before. I want to see how he is [Wednesday]. And if he's fine, let's have a blowout 11-1 and I won't have to worry about it. That would be beautiful."