Hennessey First Up in Bid to Make Orioles Rotation

Associated Press
Wednesday, February 25, 2009; 1:48 AM

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Brad Hennessey isn't reading anything into being the starter Wednesday when the Baltimore Orioles opens their exhibition schedule -- though it would be easy to do for a non-roster pitcher looking to land a spot at then end of the rotation.

The former first-round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants understands the assignment doesn't necessarily mean he's the front-runner to join the staff.

"It's not a big deal," Hennessey said. "Just go out there and get your work in. I don't know how much we're throwing, but it'll be nice to get the first one out of the way and get things started."

Outfielder Felix Pie finally got things started Tuesday morning when he finally arrived at camp after being detained in the Dominican Republic. He apparently had to reapply for his visa after the Chicago Cubs traded him to the Orioles over the winter. He's expected to start in left field.

When the team takes the field Wednesday, Hennessey is scheduled to be followed on the mound by Chris Waters, David Pauley, Brian Bass and Jim Miller. All are candidates for the rotation except Miller, who is trying to make the 25-man roster as a reliever.

The Orioles signed Hennessey as a minor league free agent after he went 1-2 with a 7.81 ERA in 17 games, including four starts, with the Giants in 2008. He was 1-1 with a 12.46 ERA in 13 relief appearances, and 0-1 with a 4.30 ERA as a starter.

Hennessey noticed that the winter began with Jeremy Guthrie as the only projected starter in the Orioles' rotation and figured he'd get a long look in camp. They signed Japanese right-hander Koji Uehara in January, but the other three spots remain open.

"That was one of the reasons for coming here, the wealth of opportunities that they had," he said. "I feel like it's a new start and another chance to get a new set of eyes on you and work with some new people."

Guthrie would have made Wednesday's start if he hadn't been chosen to the Team USA roster for the World Baseball Classic. His schedule has been altered -- to the benefit of pitchers such as Hennessey.

"The guys that we need to take a look at are guys who you'll see early in camp, and you'll see them pitch early in camp," said manager Dave Trembley, whose team was scheduled to face Italy's WBC entry on Tuesday in an unofficial exhibition game.

"Some of the guys, Hennessey in particular, when they signed here, Andy MacPhail made a commitment to them that they would get an opportunity to make the club in certain areas," Trembley said. "I'm fulfilling the promise that has been made to those guys. I think that's how you keep your credibility and your integrity."

Danys Baez, trying to crack the rotation after being a late-inning reliever for most of his career, will start Thursday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Lauderdale. Uehara, the first Asian-born player signed by the Orioles, makes Friday's start against the Florida Marlins in Jupiter.

"I told Koji that it looks like he has a plan when he pitches," Trembley said. "He's kind of like a chess player that's three moves ahead. I think that's what he does when he pitches. He's very sharp. We'll all be very anxious and very excited to see him pitch on Friday."

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