Hendrickson could find way into rotation


January 01, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

The Orioles officially added a veteran pitcher to their 40-man roster yesterday, announcing that left-hander Mark Hendrickson passed his physical and has agreed to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million.

It could increase to $2 million if he pitches and/or starts enough games to earn incentives.

Hendrickson, 34, has a career 50-63 record and a 5.07 ERA over parts of seven seasons. He went 7-8 in 2008 with a 5.45 ERA in 36 games (19 starts) for the Florida Marlins.

The versatile pitcher, 6 feet 9, could get an opportunity to win a spot in the rotation behind Jeremy Guthrie but for now is being penciled in as a long reliever.

"Our scouts really like him; we feel there is some hidden value there," club president Andy MacPhail said. "He's been effective against lefties, and we see him as a versatile piece. We'll start him out in the bullpen, but if we need someone to start, he can do that as well."

Hendrickson, who has pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers and Marlins, has made 215 career appearances, including 154 starts. Guthrie had been the team's most experienced member of the projected 2009 rotation with 57 career starts. The other 24 pitchers on the Orioles' 40-man roster have combined for 181 major league starts - just 27 more than Hendrickson.

Hendrickson prefers starting and was intrigued by the opportunities in the Orioles' rotation but said his focus is making a good impression in spring training.

"I don't really worry about the role. Ultimately, you just have to go out there and pitch," he said. "The impression I got from them is that I am going to go down there and start, and that's what I'll plan to do and that's the direction I ultimately see it going."

Hendrickson grew up in Washington state, but spent his summers playing baseball in York, Pa., where his grandparents lived. He owns a house in Washington state and one in York, an Orioles hotbed that's roughly an hour from Camden Yards. Most of his extended family still lives in the area.

"It is a perfect fit as far as getting a chance to see my family throughout the year; it's something I've not been able to do since I have been playing," he said. "It will give me a chance to live a somewhat normal life during the season. ... It's a great New Year's gift, Christmas gift, and I couldn't be happier about it."

A forward at Washington State, Hendrickson was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996 and played 114 career games in the NBA from 1996 to 2000. He made his major league baseball debut in 2002.

MacPhail said signing Hendrickson does not alter the club's quest to improve its rotation. The Orioles continue to have discussions with agents for several starters, including Braden Looper, Tim Redding and Kenshin Kawakami.

"We are still very much in the starting pitching market," he said.

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