Final starts weigh heavily

orioles notebook

Trembley: Rotation race not over

March 29, 2009|By Peter Schmuck and Jeff Zrebiec | Peter Schmuck and Jeff Zrebiec,peter.schmuck@baltsun.com and jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

JUPITER, Fla. - Not long after Adam Eaton expressed frustration at his rocky performance Saturday, manager Dave Trembley reminded everyone the decision-making process that will determine the regular-season rotation is not over.

"There are decisions to be made," Trembley said after the Orioles' 10-6 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, "and that's why these last starts everybody makes will go a long way in determining which way we go."

Does that mean Eaton is not certain to be in the No. 3 slot when the season opens next week? Trembley didn't say that, because Eaton probably is still the best option there, but he doesn't want anyone taking anything for granted when just about every rotation candidate - with the exception of Koji Uehara and Alfredo Simon - has gotten hit around during the waning weeks of the Grapefruit League season.

Eaton gave up five runs through the first three innings of a five-inning performance. He was the first Orioles pitcher to go five this spring, but he reached his 90-pitch limit a little earlier than he would have liked.

"I struggled," he said. "I didn't have everything working at the same time ever. ... When I made some pitches, they still hit them. It was frustrating for the most part."

Another shot for Penn

Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz confirmed that right-hander Hayden Penn, who is still in the mix for a spot on the Opening Day roster either in the rotation or out of the bullpen, will start Tuesday. In his previous start, Penn allowed seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings, a result that cast doubt on his chances of making the team.

"He at least is going to need those innings even if he needs to go to the bullpen," Kranitz said. "He's got a pretty good opportunity. We're going to take it to the wire with him. He's out of options. We really have to make sure.

"He has enough to pitch in the big leagues. It's all about command issues of his fastball. ... There are spurts where he's been very effective. I'm looking at that and saying, 'We have to get him to a point where he's more consistent.' "

Mark Hendrickson, another candidate for the rotation, is expected to travel to Fort Myers and start in a minor league game Wednesday.

Good day for J.J.

Reliever Jim Johnson emerged from a 21-pitch batting practice session feeling good and more confident than ever he'll be ready for Opening Day. Facing teammates Ty Wigginton, Ryan Freel and Luke Scott, Johnson threw all of his pitches for strikes and experienced no discomfort in his right shoulder.

"I was happy with how things went," said Johnson, who had been shut down for about two weeks with shoulder tendinitis. "I still need to tighten up on command a little bit. It wasn't where I need to be, but I'll get it back in my next outing and it will get better every time out."

Kranitz said Johnson will pitch in a game Monday or Tuesday, depending on how he bounces back from Saturday's session. Johnson hasn't pitched in a game since March 11.

Roberts out again

Second baseman and leadoff man Brian Roberts was scratched from the lineup for a third straight day with an upper-respiratory infection and a sore back. Roberts acknowledged he was frustrated the medicine he's taking hasn't taken effect quicker, but he said he's not concerned about the extended time he's missing.

"I'll be ready," he said. "I don't want to start the season worn out. I just need to get better."

Around the horn

Rich Hill, who will start the season on the disabled list, will be sent to Sarasota on Monday to start pitching in minor league games. ... Eaton not only became the first Orioles pitcher to go five innings, but he also became the first to get a hit, rifling a single to right-center field in the fifth to start the Orioles' four-run rally.

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