Orioles — Give Penn the ball, give Baez the boot

March 05, 2009 | Drew Forrester

Enough’s enough.

It’s time to fish or cut bait with pitcher Hayden Penn.  And the same goes for Danys Baez.

I say “fish” with Penn.

And “cut bait” with Baez.

This doesn’t really have much to do with their early spring training results.  Hell, Baez has been ineffective and Penn has a blister to deal with — neither of these guys are Cy Young candidates, anyway.

The Orioles have been goofing around with Hayden Penn since drafting him in 2002.  He made 14 starts in a two-year period (’05-06) and was largely forgotten about thereafter.

There was an urban-legend story about Penn leaving his equipment bag behind on the day of a spring training start a few years back…and, apparently, he’s never recovered from that faux pas.

Penn is out of options – a baseball term meaning:  ”make the team or hit the road” – so he either heads north with the O’s in April or his career in Baltimore is kaput.

Why, then, would the team just not give him the green light right now and name him a starter?  What harm would that do?  

Andy MacPhail is famous for dropping not-so-subtle hints that the team “isn’t ready to win now…”, so what’s the danger in giving Penn a 10-start new-lease-on-life to see if he can get the job done at the major league level?

They didn’t sign any good, valuable (expensive) free agent pitchers in the off-season because of MacPhail’s “we’re not ready to win right now” theme.  

Fair enough.

Give Hayden Penn the ball now, put a band-aid on his blister, and tell him he’s a starter until the end of May.  If it’s not Penn, who will it be then?  Mark Hendrickson?  Adam Eaton?  The O’s don’t have any equity built into those two — they’ve been paying and grooming Hayden Penn for the better part of seven years now.

I can tell you exactly what Hendrickson and Eaton will do.  Give. Up. Earned. Runs. 

I’m not 100% sure what Penn’s going to do, mainly because he hasn’t had the chance to do it in the last couple of years…injuries, ineffectiveness in the minors, injuries and, well, injuries.  

But provide Penn with the chance right now and let’s see what he can do against real hitters.

If he gets 10 starts and he stinks, send him packing too.  

After all, “we’re not going to win right now.”

But, it’s time Penn gets a chance.  His final chance, perhaps, but a real chance nonetheless.

Isn’t that better than giving Danys Baez a feel-good spring training free-pass and providing Baez with even a morsel of hope that he might be the team’s 5th starter in April?

I thought we were “going young”?

Give Hayden Penn the ball and send Baez on his way.

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