The closer's getting closer

Mike Gonzalez tossed a scoreless seventh inning on
Sunday afternoon, which marked his first official game outing since throwing an
inning against the Twins on March 8.  He
pitched around a two-out double and looked better than he has all spring.

“I think Gonzalez answered the bell as well,” manager Dave Trembley
said after the topic had switched from starter Kevin Millwood. “

His arm speed was improved.  Velocity was there,
sharpness. It seemed like he had some energy. Seemed like he was locked in to
pitch in a big league game.”

The Orioles new closer, Gonzalez left a “B”-squad game on the 13th
with lower back tightness and only pitched to two batters.  After several days of just treatment and light
catch, he threw eight pitches in a Minor League game between the Orioles and the
Red Sox on Friday afternoon.

Gonzalez was pleased with Sunday’s
outing and said his back is getting better each time out. He estimated that it
was at about 80 percent on Friday and 95 percent on Sunday, with his back only
locking up twice -both times in the bullpen during his warm up session.

Once I got into the game, I
didn’t feel a thing, so it’s definitely feeling much better,” said Gonzalez.

The hope is he will be 100 percent by his next outing, which
right now is scheduled for Wednesday in Jupiter.

Trembley said he talked to Gonzalez a few days ago and was
assured that Gonzalez would be ready come Opening Day.

“[I said] what you need to do is start getting in some games
for me,” Trembley said of his conversation with Gonzalez.  “You need to make a couple trips. And I’ll
trust that what you’re telling me is, in fact, going to occur.  And he said, ‘Dave I’ll give you everything I
got [Opening Day] April 6. And I said, ‘Mike, no problem. And here we go.”

Sunday’s outing marked Gonzalez’s second scoreless outing this spring, lowering his ERA to 3.00. In three official innings, Gonzalez has allowed a run on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

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