Sherrill earns a tip of the cap

BALTIMORE — His straight-billed cap is a source of amusement to his teammates and the basis for many a post-game 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. Obtained in the February trade that sent Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners, he was thrust into the closer's role.

Sherrill was a setup man with the Mariners, 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.

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.

”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.“

A year ago, Baltimore relievers botched 25 of 55 save opportunities. Sherrill thus far has blown only two, which is one big reason 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.