Sherrill relishes role on Orioles
Closer wants ball whenever Baltimore claims late lead
BALTIMORE -- If the game is on the line, George Sherrill wants the ball. The Orioles closer knows that save opportunities are precious, so he's willing to pitch three games in a row -- or whenever Baltimore has a late lead. Sherill has saves in three consecutive games, but he's not ruling out a return to the mound in Sunday's game against Seattle.
"I won't throw all of them," he said Sunday. "But if we have a one-run lead tonight, it won't matter that it's my third day in a row. If I don't pitch, we might not have a one-run lead for a week. That's kind of how the game works. The record is 50-something saves in 162 games, so it's rare to have a three-run lead or less. You've got to make sure you're available."
Sherrill, who was acquired from Seattle as a part of the Erik Bedard trade, has filled a glaring vacancy in Baltimore's bullpen. The Orioles lost late relievers Chris Ray and Danys Baez to twin elbow surgeries last season, and manager Dave Trembley has vowed to try to use situational relievers Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford in their intended roles.
That meant a new job for Sherrill, who had toiled in situational and setup duties the last few years for the Mariners. Trembley has been thrilled with the early returns, but he knows he has to watch Sherrill carefully.
"What I like is he's gotten better each time out with his command," Trembley said of Sherrill, who got his start in professional baseball in an independent league. "And he's doing it with fewer pitches each time out. He's just a strike thrower and he's deceptive enough where the ball comes out of his hand kind of quick -- and he's a short-armer, so the ball gets on guys."
Sherrill, perhaps because of his former situational chores, has said that he's more comfortable when he pitches on a regular basis. The southpaw has made at least 70 appearances in each of the last two seasons and expects to make that many this year. Of course, he'll likely be required to go an entire inning instead of only facing a batter or two.
"That shouldn't really matter," Sherrill said of the endurance required for longer outings. "It's going to be more pitches, but I think the appearances should be about the same. I think it's a matter of just not throwing as much in the bullpen and making sure I don't overdo it down there. I thought I did a pretty good job of that last year, so I've kind of got a feel for that."
With Sherrill manning the ninth, Trembley can use Walker and Bradford whenever he deems it necessary. And with those two framed in situational roles, he can find limited roles for inexperienced arms like Dennis Sarfate and Randor Bierd. Also, Sherrill affords Trembley the luxury of a relief ace who can get ready to pitch virtually immediately.
"It takes him 10 pitches or less to get ready, so that's why I try not to tell him so far in advance that he's going in there," Trembley said of Sherrill's quick warmups. "We waited last night until the third out was made in the eighth before he got up because even in this weather, it doesn't take him long to get loose, which is another real plus for him."
The bottom line, though, is that Sherrill isn't afraid of being overworked. The former undrafted free agent has gotten where he is through tireless effort and said that he actually feels better when he's pitching nearly every day.
"I think that's the case with a lot of guys," Sherrill said. "If you get a couple days off, it just feels a little weird. Your timing gets a little off, and throwing in the bullpen helps a little bit, but there's no way to simulate getting in a game."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.