Darren O’Day says Jim Johnson will be missed.
“He made us a better team on and off the field. He was a great teammate. You can’t say enough nice things about him, and he was a strong presence at the back of the bullpen,” O’Day said at Saturday’s FanFest.
Manager Buck Showalter hasn’t definitively said Tommy Hunter would be the closer, but unless there’s a surprise Fernando Rodney signing in the next week, Hunter should be the choice.
“Those are big shoes to fill. I think it’s still kind of up in the air right now,” O’Day said. “Buck wants somebody to earn that role. There will be a lot of qualified candidates.”
O’Day has four saves in 323 big league appearances.
“I just pitch when they tell me to pitch. If they want me to pitch, I’ll do that. If they don’t, I’ve kind of got a pretty good role here, and I’ll do that,” O’Day said.
O’Day has worked with Hunter in both Texas and Baltimore.
“You could see as the year went on, he was in higher leverage situations. He was more consistent. He wasn’t walking guys. He was striking out. Tommy’s figured out how to attack the zone,” O’Day said. “That’s what a good closer can do.”
O’Day spoke at length about Hunter’s qualities and thinks he’ll be successful in that role.
“I have all the confidence in terms of Tommy’s mentality. I don’t think you could have a better attitude. Tommy’s got all the tools. He’s still learning. He’s still getting better,” O’Day said.
There is a difference between being a closer and a setup man.
“Being a closer isn’t that hard until you fail, really until you fail a couple of times. I can do it. It’s getting three outs in the ninth inning, which isn’t that different than the eighth inning until you screw it up,” O’Day said.
“You’ve got to come back and do the same thing against the same team. Then, it becomes tough.”
NOTE: An Orioles representative attended Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon’s workout in Southern California this weekend. Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette declined comment on Saturday about the team’s interest in Yoon.