ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Left-hander Dennis Rasmussen didn't see it coming, at least not the way it came down.
He was summoned to manager John Oates' office yesterday and asked to report to the Orioles minor-league camp at Twin Lakes Park, where he will get ready to start the season with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.
Rasmussen signed a minor-league contract and came to camp as a non-roster invitee, but he seemed to have a solid chance to make the major-league roster as either a spot starter or a long reliever. Oates had made it clear that he wanted two left-handers in the bullpen. Jim Poole will start the season on the disabled list. Rasmussen appeared to be in the right place at the right time.
"I'm surprised," Rasmussen said, "but we had a lot of guys who pitched well. I feel that there's still a need for a left-handed pitcher. If they make a trade, that might change my decision, but I'll go down there and pitch. I need to go down and get some innings in."
Rasmussen had worked 16 1/3 innings against Grapefruit League competition, compiling a 1-1 record and a 4.41 ERA. It would have been a solid spring if not for one tough outing last week, when he gave up five straight hits in an appearance against the Minnesota Twins.
The numbers game certainly didn't play in his favor. He came to camp as the No. 6 or No. 7 starter, and no one ahead of him dropped down the list. In fact, right-hander Jose Mesa probably jumped over him on the depth chart.
"I'm not sure that if I didn't give up one run, this wouldn't have happened," Rasmussen said. "I was insurance for the rotation and I still am. I've shown that I can start or pitch out of the bullpen. If one of the 10 guys goes down, they are going to need somebody. I plan on pitching well. I want to be that guy."