-- Baltimore right-hander Rick Helling summed up the situation, after learning he had earned the final spot in the Orioles' rotation on Thursday, when he said, "Somebody wasn't going to be happy." Somebody was right-hander Pat Hentgen, the 1996 Cy Young winner.
The Orioles began spring training with seven pitchers competing for five rotation positions. Right-hander Scott Erickson was eliminated early by labrum surgery.
It came down to Helling, who was signed as a free agent, and Hentgen, who underwent ligament replacement surgery on his elbow on Aug. 9, 2001. And the difference was consistency.
By making the team, Helling is guaranteed $1 million for the season with another million possible in incentives.
"When the choice is between two pitchers with proven records, it's always tougher," Manager Mike Hargrove said. "It's hard to tell a veteran that he has to pitch out of the bullpen."
Hentgen, 34, will be in the bullpen for the first time since 1993, when he relieved twice for Toronto. The Orioles' decision means right-hander Travis Driskill, who has a 2.00 ERA over nine innings this spring, will be sent to Class AAA Ottawa.
"I'm disappointed," said Hentgen, who is 1-3 with a 6.30 ERA this spring. "I would rather be starting. I can still be competitive and win games, but there isn't much you can do as a player."
Helling, 32, was 1-2 with a 3.42 ERA this spring. He will start Saturday against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. He had a streak of four straight 200-plus inning seasons broken last year when he suffered a high right ankle sprain.
"My one goal from the beginning was to be in the rotation," Helling said. "I knew that there were seven guys with a legitimate chance. I have proven myself as a starter over the years. I think that I'm obviously more valuable to a team as a starter than any other way. I've been a starter my whole career, and I think I can be one for another five years."
With the choice of Helling, Hargrove completed a rotation of right-hander Rodrigo Lopez, the Opening Day starter; left-hander Omar Daal, another free agent; Helling and right-handers Sidney Ponson and Jason Johnson.
Hargrove plans to use Hentgen in long and short roles, but he won't use him for three days in succession. He also didn't rule out Hentgen returning to the rotation at some point.
"I have to go about my business and pitch," Hentgen said. "I have to work at warming up quicker, but it shouldn't be a problem."
Hentgen, who will make $1.2 million guaranteed this season with a club option for 2004 and $300,000 buyout, had a dead arm in the middle of the spring, "but everyone does," he said. His arm has grown stronger. In Monday's game against Minnesota, his pitches were clocked at 88-89 mph, his high before the surgery.
"I think it will get stronger," Hentgen said. "I didn't ask them to [trade] me where I could start, but it is a possibility. I would much rather start, and I still can start."
Orioles Notes: The team placed first baseman David Segui on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 21, with a non-displaced fracture of his right thumb.