Orioles sign left-hander Will Ohman

Bullpen competition heats up a week before spring training workouts

February 10, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec | jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

A little more than a week before the first workout for pitchers and catchers, the Orioles added another left-hander to their bullpen competition, signing veteran Will Ohman to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training.

Ohman, 32, had a 5.84 ERA in 21 appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers in an injury-shortened 2009. For his big league career, which spans parts of seven seasons and 324 appearances, Ohman has held left-handed hitters to a .204 average.

"I think it's always good to have experience in your bullpen," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "This gives us another left-handed situational guy to look at. I wanted to have another lefty in the bullpen besides [Mark] Hendrickson. Now we have some options, and we'll go to spring training and figure it out. But I like Ohman's track record. He's done it. It's a plus for us if it works out."

Ohman will compete with Alberto Castillo, Wilfrido Perez and nonroster invitee Mike Hinckley for the situational left-hander role in the bullpen.

Trembley also has the option of keeping just one lefty in the bullpen in front of southpaw closer Mike Gonzalez, and that would likely be Hendrickson, whose one-year, $1.2 million deal to return to the Orioles was concluded Tuesday. The Orioles hold an option for 2011 on Hendrickson.

To open up a spot on the 40-man roster for Hendrickson, who went 6-5 with a 4.37 ERA in 53 games last year, the Orioles designated right-handed pitcher Armando Gabino for assignment. The Orioles claimed Gabino off waivers from the Minnesota Twins in November.

Andy MacPhail, president of baseball operations, said the Ohman acquisition will likely end the Orioles' offseason activity.

"I don't expect anything else," MacPhail said.

Orioles officials watched Ohman throw a bullpen session in Arizona as the pitcher, who had elbow and shoulder surgeries, is trying to prove he's back from injuries that have dogged him the past couple of seasons.

"The reports that we've gotten are all positive," Trembley said. "They saw him throw and came back saying it was a go."

Ohman and Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz worked together for parts of four seasons in the Chicago Cubs organization, including 2004, when Ohman pitched the entire season at Triple-A Iowa, where Kranitz was the pitching coach. Ohman called Kranitz on Monday to discuss potential opportunities with the Orioles.

"When I had him, he was resilient," Kranitz said. "He wanted to pitch every day, and his stuff was above average. He has a plus-plus slider, and he threw hard enough to get the attention of the hitter. If he is healthy, he can help us."

Note: The Orioles also signed left-handed reliever Will Startup to a minor league deal, but he didn't get an invitation to big league spring training. Startup, a 25-year-old who missed most of the past two seasons with injuries, has posted a 2.70 ERA in four minor league seasons.

Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.

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