Sherrill is frontrunner for closer job

Sherrill is frontrunner for closer job

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Orioles still haven't officially named George Sherrill as their closer, but they know he won't shrink from the assignment either. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley has said that he's leaning toward tabbing Sherrill as his relief ace, but he's repeatedly delayed an official announcement until after the team's off-day on Monday.

"I would say he's leading the pack right now. He's got a leg up," Trembley said on Tuesday of Sherrill, who was acquired from Seattle in the offseason trade for Erik Bedard. "He wants to be the guy. I know that about him."

Sherrill pitched two scoreless innings on Monday and hasn't walked a batter this spring, stepping up his game to meet his new assignment. The southpaw has worked as a specialist in recent seasons -- logging a 2.36 ERA in 73 games in 2007 -- but Trembley said that he thinks Sherrill can expand his role and retire right-handed hitters in addition to left-handers.

Other ninth-inning candidates include right-handers Greg Aquino and Dennis Sarfate. Trembley said that he'd like his closer to pitch an entire inning, and that he doesn't want to save his situational arms for the ninth, which rules out Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford, and that Sherrill -- should he be chosen as the closer -- would have to get three outs on his own.

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"He doesn't throw as hard as I guess most guys that pitch late in the game, but the ball comes out of his hand with life and there's movement on it," Trembley said of Sherrill, whose career started in the Independent League. "His arm angle is deceptive. His release point is deceptive and he's aggressive, which I think lends toward him being succesful."

Sherrill has always had problems in Spring Training, logging a career ERA of 10.48 in four seasons. Sherrill pitched to a 13.00 mark in nine innings last season and a 16.50 ERA in six innings in 2006, but thus far, he's logged a 1.80 ERA. Trembley said that's reassuring, and that he expects Sherrill to pick up where he left off once the regular season begins.

"His spring has been far better than he told me it would be," said Trembley. "He told me when he came in, 'Don't get excited, because I'm always a slow starter and I don't have a good spring.' It's been pretty good for me."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.