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News » Hats off to Sherrill, Baltimore's talented closer

Hats off to Sherrill, Baltimore's talented closer

Hats off to Sherrill, Baltimore's talented closer
BALTIMORE (AP) - His straight-billed cap is a source of amusement to his teammates and the basis for many a postgame celebration.

To opponents of the Baltimore Orioles, however, there is nothing funny about seeing George Sherrill on the mound - even if the front of his hat is as flat as an airport landing strip. Because when the left-hander enters in the ninth inning with a lead to protect, the outcome is rarely in doubt.

Sherrill ranks second in the AL with 17 saves, and is 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA. Obtained in the February trade that sent Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners, he was thrust into the closer's role because, quite simply, Baltimore didn't have anyone else capable enough to fill the position.

Sherrill was a setup man with the Mariners. The last time he served as a closer was with Triple-A Tacoma in 2005, but with Baltimore's Chris Ray and Danys Baez sidelined for months after undergoing reconstructive surgery, Orioles manager Dave Trembley handed the job to Sherrill and hoped for the best.

And that's what he's gotten.

"He's cool, his makeup is tremendous, he can pitch every day and it doesn't take him long to get loose," Trembley said. "He's a strike-thrower, and he's got some deception."

Sherrill's across-the-body delivery has proven troublesome to batters because it's difficult to gauge the pitch until it's well on the way to the plate. Perhaps that explains why he's allowed only 15 hits and has 17 strikeouts in 22 2-3 innings.

"I don't have a 98 mph fastball, so it's really important to have something else," Sherrill said. "I've been told I throw out of my ear or out of my shirt. It allows my fastball to sneak up on somebody, so they don't get a good piece of the bat on it."

Or maybe it's just that hat. Almost every baseball player bends the bill of his cap into a crescent shape, but Sherrill never mastered the art. So he keeps it the way he got it, much to the delight of his teammates, who flip their bills up during the postgame handshaking line after every victory that Sherrill "caps."

"What an addition he's been," Orioles designated hitter Aubrey Huff said. "I remember facing him last year, I would swing at his fastball and wonder how I missed. It's just kind of a sneaky ball that gets on you. I don't know if it's more his delivery or his hat. You get caught staring at that darn thing and you just can't stop looking at it."

A year ago, Baltimore relievers botched 25 of 55 save opportunities. Sherrill thus far has blown only two, which is one big reason why the Orioles are at .500 following a run of 10 straight losing seasons.

"It's awesome that we can go into a ninth inning and know that we're probably going to win. It's great what he's doing out there," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "It's his first time so we didn't know what to expect, but when he has the ball he feels like he's going to get three outs. Confidence is a big part of the game."

The biggest name among the five players the Orioles got from Seattle is Adam Jones, tabbed to be a can't-miss prospect in center field. But Sherrill, a 30-year-old who arrived with four saves in 195 major league appearances, has provided the most immediate contribution to one of the most surprising teams of 2008.

"Whether you're a setup man or a closer, the mind-set is the same," Sherrill said. "Some situations I had in Seattle, coming in with a couple guys on, would actually be a little tougher than coming in with a three-run lead."

With Sherrill on the job, the Orioles have confidence that he can protect even the thinnest of margins. Sort of like how the Padres feel about esteemed closer Trevor Hoffman.

"You know if you go to San Diego and you hear (the AC/DC song) "Hell's Bells," the game, for the most part, is over," Orioles starter Steve Trachsel said. "That's what you want out of your closer and that's, hopefully, what is happening here."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 30, 2008

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