Hentgen's rehab more favorable for O's

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Unlike Erickson, ex-Jay making a stronger pitch

Obando gets Marlins' look

March 01, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Orioles manager Mike Hargrove seems fairly certain that Pat Hentgen, 17 months removed from ligament-transplant surgery on his right elbow, will be included on the pitching staff this season. And that probably means a spot in a starting rotation that won't include Scott Erickson, who will have surgery next week to repair a torn labrum.

"I don't look for Pat Hentgen to not be on this club," Hargrove said. "I think he's going to go out and do the job, and do it very well. I have every confidence in Pat. He may be one of my all-time favorites. I don't have many."

Hentgen replaced starter Omar Daal yesterday and went two innings in the Orioles' 7-6 victory over the Florida Marlins. He allowed one run, after loading the bases with none out in the third inning, and three hits. He also hit a batter and struck out one.

Hargrove has noticed in bullpen sessions that Hentgen's velocity, location and strength are better than during his four September starts, when he lost each decision and posted a 7.77 ERA in 22 innings.

"People ask me about the elbow all the time. It's not even a factor," Hentgen said. "Believe me, it's 100 percent."

That percentage doesn't apply to Hentgen's confidence in joining the rotation, perhaps as the fifth starter. All signs are good, even with Rick Helling and Jason Johnson in the competition and the possibility of another starter being acquired, but he won't make any assumptions.

"Every time you go out, you're competing," he said. "Sure, I'd love to be a starting pitcher. That's what I've always been my whole career. But for me to stand here and say, `Oh sure, I'm a lock,' how many locks are there?"

Obando gets a look

Each camp contains a few players who were almost forgotten by Major League Baseball, their careers as yellow and faded as an old newspaper clipping. The Marlins are no exception.

Counted among their spring invitees is former Orioles outfielder Sherman Obando, who signed a minor-league contract after four seasons in Japan. He struck out four times yesterday as the designated hitter.

Obando made his big-league debut in 1993 at age 23, after the Orioles chose him in the Rule 5 draft off the New York Yankees' roster. They traded him three years later to the Montreal Expos for outfielder Tony Tarasco.

Known with the Orioles for his raw power and defensive shortcomings, Obando hit 26 homers last summer for the Nippon Ham Fighters. His bag of cliches passed through customs on his return to the States.

"I'm going to work hard, try to impress them and do what I have to do to help the club," he said.

Around the horn

Catcher Brook Fordyce was supposed to play yesterday, but he didn't dress for the game and left in the fifth inning to have his sore throat examined. Fordyce's glands were badly swollen. ... The Orioles signed five more players to 2003 contracts, bringing their total to 32: pitcher Travis Driskill, infielders Jose Leon and Ed Rogers, and outfielders Luis Matos and Chris Richard. ... A moment of silence was observed before the game for pitcher Steve Bechler, who died Feb. 17 from complications related to heatstroke.

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