ST. PETERSBURG, FLA — ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Left-hander Dennis Rasmussen will enter the second phase of his non-roster audition today when he pitches in a situational relief role against the Minnesota Twins.
Rasmussen hopes to win a place in the Orioles starting rotation, but he ranks sixth or seventh among the club's nine potential starters. So, manager John Oates has asked him to prepare himself for the possibility that he might open the season in the bullpen.
"It just gives us another option if I decide I want him on the staff as a flip-flop [long reliever-spot starter] guy, or if we've got a problem with Jim Poole," Oates said. "If everything goes OK, we've got no problem."
Rasmussen has made it clear to the Orioles that he will do anything necessary to stay in the major leagues. He is an eight-year major-league veteran, but he signed a minor-league contract and accepted the non-roster invitation because the Orioles offered the best opportunity to keep his career alive.
He has not made a relief appearance since 1987, and he has made only seven during his 12 years in professional ball, but he told Oates that he can adapt to a relief role.
"He says he has done it," Oates said. "We just want to see if he can. The more things he can do, the more valuable he can be to us."
Rasmussen has pitched in relief in each of his exhibition appearances, but in each case he was allowed as much time as he needed to get ready. If he were in the bullpen, he would not have the luxury of a leisurely warm-up or be in position to spend his arm on a single game.
Oates wants to know if he can warm up quickly, but he said he will not send Rasmussen to the mound if he cannot get loose in the period allotted.
"I'm not going to do anything that would put him in danger of hurting himself," he said. "I want to see what the minimum warm-up time is for him, but he won't go out there if he isn't ready."
Rasmussen is not out of consideration for a place in the rotation, but the five most likely starters have done nothing to indicate there will be room for him on Opening Day. He has said he would start the season at Triple-A Rochester and wait for a chance, but the bullpen would be a more attractive alternative.