The Orioles secured a key arm in their bullpen by reaching an agreement and avoiding arbitration with left handed reliever George Sherrill. The deal is for one year at $2.75 million. Sherrill, 31, served as the Orioles primary closer last year in the absence of Chris Ray. Sherrill represented the Orioles in the All-Star game last season and finished with 31 saves. Because of his performance, representatives of Sherrill initially requested $3.4 million for the upcoming season. The Orioles counter offer was $2.2 million. On Friday the two sides came to terms and inked a one year $2.75 million deal.
Sherrill will be involved in a very interesting competition this Spring. He and Chris Ray will be battling for the role as closer. Chris Ray, 27, missed all of last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. To this point, his recovery seems to be right on track. When pitchers and catchers report to camp next week he will be tested. Sherrill in now the incumbent and it will be up to Ray to prove that he is capable of closing for the Orioles once more.
No matter who ends up being the full time closer for the Orioles, the back end of the bullpen appears to be a great strength for this ball club (barring any injuries). Last year, RHP Jim Johnson emerged as an effective set-up man. He consistently worked the eighth inning last year getting the ball to Sherrill for the ninth. Johnson finished with an ERA of only 2.23. The additions of John Parrish and Mark Hendrickson should provide some added depth to the middle and long relievers. Their success and the teams success, however, will still lie with the starting pitching. If the starters can not consistently provide six and seven inning outings then the bullpen will be overworked and become less effective.