O's whittle down rotation candidates
With Pauley in reliever mix, five-six options remain for three spots
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Baltimore's jumbled rotation picture began to take a more defined shape Tuesday, when manager Dave Trembley admitted that there are five or six candidates competing for three spots. There had been more than 10 choices at one point, but injuries and inefficiency have begun to thin the herd.
David Pauley was the latest name to drop out, with Trembley saying Tuesday that he's looking at the right-hander as a reliever. The remaining candidates appear to be Adam Eaton, Danys Baez, Mark Hendrickson, Alfredo Simon, Hayden Penn and Brian Bass, and the Orioles have two weeks to make a decision.
Part of the problem, said Trembley, is that there just aren't enough innings to go around at this point. That's why the Orioles optioned Brad Bergesen down to Triple-A Norfolk, and that's why Pauley won't be able to start again this spring. When it comes down to it, there are just too many arms that need to be evaluated.
"There's other guys ahead of him right now," Trembley said of Pauley. "The two rainouts hurt us, and we're coming down toward the end of it. I would highly doubt if he gets another start.
"If anybody gets another start, I'll try to get it for Penn, because he got bumped."
Pauley, who came over from Boston in exchange for reliever Randor Bierd, is out of options and must either make the team or risk being exposed to waivers. The right-hander pitched in 177 games during his Minor League apprenticeship, and all but three of them were as a starter, complicating his transition.
"It's whatever they need me for -- wherever I can help out the most right now, whether that's in the bullpen or I'm starting or not," said Pauley, a former eighth-round Draft pick. "I'm just going to work at it."
The only surefire starters on Baltimore's staff are Jeremy Guthrie and free-agent acquisition Koji Uehara, both of whom inspire questions of their own. Guthrie was absent from the team for three weeks to participate in the World Baseball Classic, while Uehara has been slowed by a strained left hamstring for much of March.
The Orioles had originally intended for Rich Hill to snag one of the vacancies, but he's had soreness in his left elbow that will likely cause him to start the season on the disabled list. Early candidates John Parrish and Brad Hennessey were also felled by injury, and Matt Albers and Radhames Liz were moved to the bullpen.
Hendrickson, meanwhile, has taken the opposite path. The southpaw began the spring ensconced as Baltimore's long reliever, a role he may return to at some point during the season. Simon missed the first few weeks of camp while dealing with visa issues in the Dominican Republic and has come on strong since.
Penn, another player out of options, has drawn a long look from Baltimore's coaching staff this spring. Penn has worked as both a starter and reliever and has been praised for improved focus and maturity. Now, as Spring Training winds down, Trembley wants to see him in every possible scenario.
"He had never come out of the bullpen before with runners on base," said Trembley of Penn's last outing. "It was a new experience for him and he did OK. He could be a long guy. He could be a starter."
Pauley, who has an 8.18 ERA in five spring appearances, is scheduled to pitch in Wednesday's intrasquad game. And no matter his role or his destination, Pauley would like to stay within the organization.
"I think it's been a great fit for me so far," Pauley said. "You don't want to settle [for Triple-A], but if that's the place where you have to go to work on things or whatever might be, that's what has to happen."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.