Oriole fans everywhere exhaled in unison on Thursday when the announcement was made that Mark Hendrickson was coming back on a one year deal. Start printing off the playoff tickets baby!
In all seriousness it isn’t a bad move. Hendrickson will be back at a lower amount of money than he made last year and he will be used strictly out of the bullpen, where he has excelled throughout his career. Hendrickson has been miscast as a starter until this point, but out of the bullpen he has always been solid. His numbers from last year do not look good as a whole but most of his innings were logged struggling as a starter, when he was moved to the bullpen he was largely effective. He is also cheap, which is a good quality for relief pitching due to its volatile nature.
The bullpen this year will almost definitely be an improvement from ’09 and it should be very interesting to watch its development. Bringing in Mike “The Situation” Gonzalez should help, although I am not a giant fan of his acquisition. If he is healthy, he will be a solid pitcher but he has had his share of health issues previously. As I stated before, relief pitching is a volatile commodity an I do not like the money they committed or that we relinquished a second round draft pick to sign him. All of the being said, if he stays healthy he will be a solid contributor.
Along with The Situation and Hendrickson, the other locks for the bullpen (assuming health) appear to be Jim Johnson, Koji Uehara, Kam Mickolio, Cla Meredith, and one of the Hernandez/Berken duo. I would also imagine Fat Albers will be on the bubble for a spot and the Orioles may even make a typical stupid decision to carry 13 pitchers. Dennis Sarfate would also have been in this conversation, but he was recently designated for assignment and his future is up in the air. When performance and health issues arise we have a number of interesting arms in waiting that could prove to make us very deep in an area that has been a weakness in recent years. At some point this year we may see any of Jake Arrieta, Brandon Erbe, Luis Lebron, Troy Patton, and Wilfrido Perez. The O’s are also still being linked to Erik Bedard and his signing would also impact the bullpen for obvious reason. The Orioles have also extended spring training invites to lefties Will Ohman and Hisanori Takahashi, though neither has accepted the offer yet.
The Orioles should have a deep number of talented arms to create a bullpen from and I expect it to be a strength of the 2010 team barring a catastrophic number of injuries. The very interesting part will be how they construct the pitching staff going forward from this year with the glut of starters that will be available soon. We are going to have see of few guys who have been groomed as starters in the bullpen or see some moves being made to clear room in the rotation as guys like Arrieta, Erbe, and Zach Britton are ready for the show.