Reliever Mark Hendrickson might have had the best full season of his seven-year big league career in 2009, but he is taking a pay cut to remain with the Orioles.
He couldn't be more content with his decision.
"We had some options out there, but it is one of those things where you really can't put a price tag on what it means to be at home," said Hendrickson, who married this offseason and lives year-round in nearby York, Pa., with his wife, Cortney, and stepdaughter Hannah. "To go home and live a normal life off the field, that plays a huge factor into it. Plus, it's a good team. There is no shortage of optimism among the players."
Hendrickson, 35, agreed to a one-year, $1.2 million deal with a $1.2 million team option for 2011, which includes a $200,000 buyout. The contract is pending a physical today. With the buyout, Hendrickson would be guaranteed $1.4 million in 2010, which is down slightly from his $1.5 million salary in 2009, a season in which he went 6-5 with a 4.37 ERA in 53 games, including 11 starts.
The contract includes escalating clauses each year if Hendrickson reaches a specific number of starts ($25,000 each for 10 starts, 12 starts, 14 starts and 16 starts), though he is expected to pitch mainly out of the bullpen, where he was 4-0 with a 3.44 ERA in 2009.
"I think that's something that does make our team better," Hendrickson said of pitching primarily in relief. "It's something I feel I can excel at."
As is his policy, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail would not confirm the deal until Hendrickson passes his physical but acknowledged that the team is prepared to add a veteran pitcher to the 40-man roster.
It is expected to be MacPhail's final roster addition in an offseason in which he has traded for starting pitcher Kevin Millwood and signed first baseman Garrett Atkins, third baseman Miguel Tejada, closer Mike Gonzalez and Hendrickson.
"I think we are satisfied that we filled in the spots where we felt we needed help," MacPhail said. "We are happy with how it has played out."
The even-keel Hendrickson filled various roles for the Orioles last season, including long reliever, situational lefty and spot starter. He also emerged as a veteran leader in the bullpen.
"I like what he gives us, not only with his pitching, but his experience and his work ethic and his demeanor," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I think that lends itself very well to our younger guys, and I am glad to have him. I know Andy said this was a guy we were looking forward to getting late in the offseason, and I am excited we followed through."
Hendrickson said in September that he wanted to remain in Baltimore. He never wavered from that position, even though the process dragged out for three months and he wasn't sure where he would be reporting in three weeks.
"There are other guys in this business that are still out there waiting to get jobs," Hendrickson said. "I think this is maybe just a sign of the times, but once you can get that financial part of it out of the way and into your rearview mirror, you can focus on playing baseball. … I am blessed to be where I want to be. The enthusiasm and excitement I have for this season is as good as anytime in my career."
When Hendrickson comes, who goes?
To make room for Hendrickson on the 40-man roster, the Orioles will have to make a corresponding roster move once his signing becomes official. The most likely candidate to be designated for assignment is Armando Gabino
, a right-handed reliever the Orioles claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Twins this offseason.
Gabino, 26, pitched in two games in 2009 for the Twins, including his major league debut against the Orioles on Aug. 25 in which he started and allowed four runs in 2 2/3 innings. He was 0-0 with a 17.18 ERA for the Twins but was 6-4 with a 2.94 ERA in 38 games, seven starts, at Triple-A Rochester, the Twins' top affiliate.
If he is designated, the Orioles would have 10 days to trade, release or ask waivers on Gabino.
About 60 in major league camp
The Orioles have invited about 60 players to attend major league spring training camp, which begins next month in Sarasota, Fla. MacPhail does not expect any more in-house candidates to be invited, including pitching prospect Zach Britton
and infielder Brandon Waring
, both of whom excelled at Single-A Frederick last year.
The duo, however, could receive some limited time in major league camp, now that all the organization's players are in the same town, instead of being on separate coasts.
"While they will probably not be in camp initially," MacPhail said, "we still have opportunity to see them occasionally now that our camps are 15 minutes apart."
MacPhail said there is a possibility that one or two players from outside the organization could join the team in Sarasota. The Orioles have extended minor league deals with spring training invitations to former Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Will Ohman and Japanese lefty Hisanori Takahashi.