Francona reaches out to Sherrill
Sox skipper used O's closer for 2 1/3 innings at All-Star Game
BALTIMORE -- George Sherrill won't pick up a baseball for a week and will be off the active roster until at least Aug. 30 -- facts that have the Orioles wondering how Sherrill's injury happened and who will step up to fill the void the All-Star closer left in the bullpen.
One day after the news came of Sherrill's trip to the disabled list, Red Sox manager Terry Francona -- who was also the manager in the All-Star Game when Sherrill threw 2 1/3 innings, his longest outing in the Major Leagues since 2004 -- gave the Orioles closer a personal phone call.
"I didn't want them to think we were ... flippant about their pitchers," Francona said prior to Wednesday night's game. "I understand. I don't want to see a kid go on the DL anyway, not if I have something to do with it.
"I said something to George, I think it was after an inning and a third, 'Can you go back out for another?'" Francona said of his exchange with Sherrill during the All-Star Game. "He said, 'I'll go out all night.' And he meant it. Now obviously, we weren't going to do that. But I think he threw 24, 25 pitches.
"I don't think we were disrespectful or ignorant of him. I do understand that now he's on the DL, so I called him."
Orioles manager Dave Trembley and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail both reiterated the point on Tuesday that injuries like Sherrill's (shoulder inflammation) are usually the result of a cumulative buildup over time. Sherrill has already pitched 50 1/3 innings, a career high, but since the All-Star break, his numbers have been less stellar than they were before the Midsummer Classic -- opponents are batting .295 off the closer since the break, compared to .221 before.
Whether or not Sherrill's injury stemmed from the All-Star Game, though, at this point is irrelevant. The more pressing issue for the Orioles is who will assume the role of closer in his absence.
"It will depend on the situation," Trembley said. "Obviously, [Jim] Johnson is a guy that figures very prominently into getting those opportunities, but in all honesty, I don't really want to get locked in to naming a closer on this team while Sherrill is out."
Johnson, who has been the team's eighth-inning setup man, is the likely candidate to get the first crack at being the man for the Orioles, both because of the success he's had this season -- posting a 2.37 ERA in 64 2/3 innings pitched -- and because of his mental makeup. Johnson said Wednesday that he hasn't actually been a closer since his first year of varsity baseball in high school.
"It's just one inning later, that's the only difference," Johnson said. "It's fun, it's a different animal, but that's part of pitching later in the game, that's when the game's on the line, that's when you want to be in there."
"I think he proved what kind of makeup he had when he came up here earlier in the season," Trembley said. "I think he faced every situation he possibly could for a guy who never pitched out of the bullpen at this level before."
Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.