O's rotation candidates struggle
Hennessey, Pauley, Waters not at their best in spring opener
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles got some distressing returns on Wednesday from their first look at three potential back-end rotation candidates. Brad Hennessey got hurt, David Pauley struggled mightily and Chris Waters didn't really impress in the team's Grapefruit League debut, a 9-3 loss to the New York Mets.
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley cautioned against reading too much into the early results, but the skipper admitted that he didn't like what he saw and said openly that he's hoping for better results next time out.
"It's like I've said, and I'll sound like a broken record," said Trembley. "I hope it's late in the spring before we make decisions. They're all going to get as best of an opportunity as we can give them. I think it's a wide-open race for anything past Koji [Uehara] and anything that doesn't include some of those guys in the bullpen."
The Orioles went into Spring Training with just two rotation spots settled -- those belonging to Uehara and staff ace Jeremy Guthrie -- and another one all but earmarked for southpaw Rich Hill. The last two slots have been up for grabs, and Hennessey and Pauley were regarded as two of the top contenders to fill them.
Baltimore admitted as much when it tabbed Hennessey for the first start of the spring, and Trembley had said that he was optimistic that the former first-round Draft pick would step forward. And Hennessey did in the first inning, allowing two baserunners but escaping the jam on a high-chop double play to shortstop Chris Gomez.
The seeds for adversity were perhaps planted in the next half-inning while Hennessey rested on the bench. The Orioles had a long inning punctuated by an injury to Mets starter Sean Green, and by the time Hennessey got back to the mound, his elbow had begun to tighten up and cause him mild discomfort.
"It was tough warming up in that second inning," Hennessey said. "I just thought since they had a long inning with that new guy coming in that maybe that was all it was. I tried to go through it and see if it would loosen up. But it never did. It just kept tightening up, tightening up, and it eventually got to the point where I couldn't do it anymore."
Hennessey walked two batters in that second inning, and pitching coach Rick Kranitz went out to talk to him with one out and the bases loaded. The right-hander admitted that his elbow felt sore at that point, and after a brief consultation with head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, the Orioles went to the bullpen.
Hennessey was subsequently examined by team physician Dr. John Wilckens, and Baltimore said it doesn't believe the injury is serious. The former Giant will be examined again on Thursday, and if there's enough inflammation to worry the training staff, he could be sent to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test.
"So far, it looks to be not too severe. Hopefully, that stays the case," said Hennessey. "The only time I've ever had anything with my throwing was tendinitis in '07, but in my shoulder. I've never had problems with my elbow. ... Real scary, but hopefully everything will be fine and I'll get back to getting out there sometime in the near future."
Pauley, meanwhile, had an even tougher day at the office. The right-hander allowed five hits and four earned runs on Wednesday and was only able to record one out -- and that came on a diving catch by center fielder Adam Jones. Trembley said one common trait linked both Hennessey's and Pauley's performance.
"Tentative," Trembley said of Hennessey. "I saw much better from his side sessions and his [batting-practice] sessions than I did today. It looked like he really didn't extend. He didn't really let it go. Same thing with Pauley. He didn't throw enough strikes, he pitched behind. That was the theme of the day with most of them."
Kranitz, who has been working with Pauley over the past few weeks, elaborated a little.
"When he came in, he was a little out of whack with his delivery," said Kranitz of Pauley, who was acquired from Boston in exchange for Randor Bierd. "It looked like he was trying to get straightened out a little bit, and then he went right back to it today. First time, we'll give him that. He's better than that. No question."
Waters, meanwhile, pitched between Hennessey and Pauley and fared better than either other arm. The southpaw came into the second inning and allowed a two-run single to Luis Castillo, but both of those runs were charged to Hennessey. He gave up another hit and an RBI double before escaping the third inning.
And while it may not have been anything glaring, Waters needs every positive result he can get. He's rarely been mentioned as part of the group of arms fighting for a rotation slot, and he's in jeopardy of being passed from behind by Baltimore's bumper crop of pitching prospects. For now, though, Waters is firmly in the mix.
"He's one of the however many guys we have -- 10, maybe -- that we're giving an opportunity to," said Kranitz. "He's going to get to pitch every fifth day. We'll see, but I don't think he's been overlooked. Obviously, he's got options, and we've got some choices with him. If he pitches well enough, he can make this club, but also we have that safety where he can go down to the Minor Leagues and pitch. But we'll see. it's wide open for him."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.