Rotation falling into place for Orioles
Penn pitches out of contention for spot with past two outings
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- All it took was another misstep by Hayden Penn to set the rotation.
Orioles manager Dave Trembley said Tuesday that Penn won't be in his Opening Day rotation and admitted that he's looking at Brian Bass in a relief role, all but setting his starting staff by default. Those twin developments mean likely rotation slots for Alfredo Simon, Adam Eaton and perhaps even Mark Hendrickson.
And for Trembley, who's preached all spring that the pitchers themselves will make the decision for him, Penn's latest problematic start was just the wrong performance at precisely the wrong time.
"That's what I've said -- the decision that's made is done by them," said Trembley. "They know that each pitch and each at-bat and everything is real important. I like Hayden Penn. I've been with him a long time -- seen him pitch for a long time. But at this particular point in time that we're at, I'd have to say he's not going to be in the rotation for us. We'll take a look now and see what the bullpen situation is and we'll go from there."
Penn helped come to that conclusion by pitching poorly in his two late-spring starts. The Orioles elevated him into the rotation derby late, but he allowed seven earned runs last week and six on Tuesday. Baltimore is still considering him for a bullpen slot because he's out of options, but Penn appeared demoralized after his outing.
"For me to say I'm not disappointed, I'd be lying right to your face," said the former fifth-round Draft pick. "I'm very disappointed. I thought I would come out here and have a better showing, but it didn't happen for me."
Trembley had maintained all along that the rotation picture probably wouldn't be clarified until the last day of the spring, but he said Tuesday that Simon has done enough to earn a job. Trembley was a little less clear on Hendrickson's immediate future, but he said he doesn't want to rush Brad Bergesen into a job.
"I would think right now something would have to happen in the way of an injury for that to occur," Trembley said. "Let's let Bergesen get off to a good start in Triple-A. Let's see where we're at a couple weeks into the season."
At this point, the rotation picture is as clear as it's been all spring. Baltimore will pitch Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehara the first two games of the season, and Trembley will play matchups to decide where to slot Simon. Eaton, who signed with the Orioles after being released by Philadelphia, appears to be in line as the fourth starter.
Baltimore originally had a cast of characters that reached into double digits competing for a rotation job, but injuries to Brad Hennessey, John Parrish and Rich Hill helped thin the field. As recently as last week, Trembley said there were just five candidates -- Penn, Eaton, Hendrickson, Simon and Bass -- left in the running.
The Orioles wanted to give Penn every opportunity to win a job because they're afraid he won't make it through waivers and back to Triple-A Norfolk, but at this point, they're at a loss to decide what to do with him. The right-hander worked to a 10.06 ERA this spring and was not able to pitch more than four innings in a start.
"I feel fine," said Penn, one of just two O's pitchers who have made their big league debut before their 21st birthday since 1967. "I guess that's the only encouragement I have right now is my arm feels good. As long as my arm stays healthy, I'm happy. I feel like the more I pitch, success will come.
"I've just got to bide my time and keep going out there and give it everything I've got."
And for Trembley, who has managed Penn in the Minors, there just isn't much left to say.
"I saw it, so I know it's there," Trembley said. "But for the opportunities and the times that he's had at the Major Leauge level, it hasn't been consistent. That's not to say it won't ever be that way, but it just hasn't been for a variety of reasons. ... I don't think it's a mind-set. The guy does not lack confidence.
"He competes. He works hard. It just hasn't happened at this level on a consistent basis for him."
Simon, meanwhile, set himself up as a camp surprise. The right-hander arrived late due to visa issues in his native Dominican Republic, but has pitched to a 1.12 ERA in 16 innings this spring. Bass also acquitted himself well, but Trembley decided to keep him in a role that he thrived in late last season.
"We want to bring him closer to what his role in all likelihood is going to be," said Trembley. "I would say he'll be a guy in a sixth inning [or] seventh inning, a guy that can go multiple innings and give you 55-60 pitches."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.