Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mike Gonzalez Has Tenuous Hold on Closer Job

Over the course of a 36-hour span numerous sources were puzzled by 27-year-old closer Mike Gonzalez's appearance in the eighth inning of Sunday's 5-3 win over the Reds while 41-year-old set-up man Roberto Hernandez appeared in the ninth for the save. But Tuesday Gonzalez was back in the closer's spot to pick up his first save in a 7-6 win over the Dodgers, confirming observations that the two had been switched on Sunday merely so that Gonzalez, a lefty, could face a succession of Reds lefty batters. Pittsburgh tried to give the closer's job to Gonzalez last year, but wound up staying with Jose Mesa, 38, who has since signed with Colorado. With Gonzalez starting out slowly again this year, he'll be on a short leash until he proves himself. Watch for dark horse Matt Capps, 22, to win a shot at the job by the end of the year should Gonzalez continue to stumble. Capps has been hit hard in three appearances this season, but registered a 1.13 ERA in camp, throws hard with good control and is a career closer in the minors.