After a successful opening series win against the New York Yankees, the Orioles (2-1) will send Mark Hendrickson to the mound against the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays (2-1) at Camden Yards tonight.
Hendrickson begins the season in the starting rotation despite posting a 6.24 ERA in a starting role with the Florida Marlins last season. He was moved to the bullpen in the second half and pitched to a 3.03 ERA as a reliever. Manager Dave Trembley would prefer to have Hendrickson in a long-relief role, but the injury to Rich Hill and ineffective candidates in spring training forced the 34-year-old lefty into the rotation.
The southpaw is 5-5 with a lifetime 3.64 ERA at Camden Yards. A large portion of those starts came from Hendrickson’s three-year stint with the Rays.
Right-handed batters hit .296 against him last season, so he’ll have to pitch extra carefully to sluggers Evan Longoria and Pat Burrell (Tampa Bay’s biggest free agent signing). Trembley needs Hendrickson to pitch into the sixth inning tonight.
The bullpen has been ineffective and already overworked, pitching eight innings the past two games, and more danger looms with veteran Adam Eaton scheduled to pitch on Sunday. The organization will also have to decide whom Eaton will replace on the 25-man roster. The strongest candidates figure to be Brian Bass, Danys Baez, and Matt Albers.
Tampa Bay picked up where they left off in last season’s ALCS by taking two of three games from the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Right-hander Andy Sonnanstine will take the hill after winning 13 games in 2009. He was 1-0 with a 4.76 ERA in two starts against the Orioles last season.
The Orioles were 3-15 last season against Tampa Bay and have lost 12 straight meetings. Their last win over the Rays came on April 29, 2008.
What to watch:
1. Adam Jones is red-hot starting off the season, showing good power with two extra base hits to the opposite field. He has also shown good discipline hitting in the second spot, drawing two walks after only drawing 23 all of last season.
2. Nick Markakis had 5 RBI in the Yankees series and appears to only be getting better in his fourth season. It’s still far too early to tell with the 25-year-old right fielder, but he may turn out to be the club’s best homegrown run producer since Eddie Murray.
3. Keep an eye on Rays center fielder Matt Joyce. After hitting 12 home runs in his rookie season with the Tigers last year, the Rays traded pitcher Edwin Jackson to Detroit for the 24-year-old outfielder.