03/04/09 3:02 PM EST
Eaton in pursuit of rotation spot
Right-hander arrives at camp optimistic about chances
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
"I think I have a good shot," he said before Wednesday's game against the Dominican Republic. "To myself and anybody that knows me, the last two years haven't been a success at all. I look forward to getting back to the way I was before, record-wise and numbers-wise. I know its still in me, and I know I'm fully capable of doing it."
Still, there's the specter of his recent performance to handle. Eaton hasn't had an ERA under 5.00 since 2005, and he hasn't had a winning record with a double-digit victory total since that same season. Despite his recent struggles, Eaton is still 68-63 for his career and has made at least 19 starts in five of the last six years.
And now, after his release, Eaton is a pitcher who feels like he has to prove himself again.
"I feel good," he said before the Orioles had assigned him a nameplate or a number. "Obviously, I've played 25 years of baseball now, so I have little nicks and bruises. I've had a bad back the last few years and it's still there. It's manageable and we can work around it. Arm-wise, I feel good.
"I'm looking forward to a fresh start, and hopefully I can get back to where I was before."
Eaton has a variety of ways to explain his Philadelphia tenure, which came after a promising start to his career in San Diego and a brief dip into American League waters with the Texas Rangers. He said that he had injury problems in Year 1 and that he never got on track last year, leading to his dismissal this spring.
"What went wrong?" Eaton asked. "A lot of things went wrong, but a lot of things that went right, too. I helped them get to the playoffs two years in a row, and obviously we won the World Series last year. That's a big thrill of mine, but obviously I still want to compete in that World Series atmosphere. That's what I aim to do.
"It's bitter for the fact that i wasn't able to compete in it, but sweet in the fact that I watched those guys perform the way they did at such a high level at the right time. It's a huge sense of pride in being a part of that."
Now, the only pressure on him will be self-imposed. Eaton is in a situation where the Orioles would prefer to wait on their pitching prospects, giving him a chance to prove himself. And if he pitches well in Spring Training, Baltimore will point to his prior history as a main reason why he was able to buck the odds and make the team.
"I don't think anybody has a leg up on anybody," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley. "We're going to evaluate him when we see him. Obviously, we understand his background and that he has the potential to be a guy that can give us innings. But I think he needs to be evaluated in games just like everybody else."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.