Orioles may relieve Jim Johnson of closer duties

MLB saves leader Jim Johnson may be done as Orioles' closer

8/16/13 in MLB   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Jim Johnson had a great breakthrough season in 2012, posting an impressive 2.49 ERA while leading the MLB in saves with 51. Johnson is putting up numbers once again in 2013, racking up a league-high 39 saves. However, it looks as if the Orioles may be ready to relieve Johnson of his closing responsibilities.

Aug 9, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Jim Johnson (43) after allowing a run by the San Francisco Giants during the ninth inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY SportsThough he sits atop the league in the saves category, he is also the league leader in blown saves with nine - two more than any other player. In addition, he ranks 44th in ERA among relievers who have pitched 40+ innings, posting a 3.52 in that category.

In the wake of Johnson's third consecutive blown save opportunity, manager Buck Showalter was noncommittal to 2012's 7th leading Cy Young vote getter. "We have a lot of options and he's one of them," Showalter said of Johnson.

What makes bumping Johnson to a setup or middle relief role even easier for Showalter is the number of solid pitchers that the Orioles have in their bullpen. Of the six relievers who have pitched 42+ innings for the Orioles, Johnson has the second worst ERA. In addition, the club acquired Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers before the trade deadline. A former dominant closer, Rodriguez has posted a 1.87 ERA this season, and was a perfect 10-for-10 on save chances while playing for the Brewers.

At the very least, expect Johnson to be temporarily removed from the closer role. Three consecutive blown saves is uncommonly horrible, and the Orioles will want to see if they have any better ninth inning options before the final stretch of the season rolls around. On the heels of a sensational campaign, it has certainly been an interesting season for Johnson.
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