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Orioles invite Mark Hendrickson to spring training

Hendrickson O's

For the third time in his career, Mark Hendrickson has been signed by the Baltimore Orioles.  His professional baseball career, which was preceded by four NBA seasons, will enter its 17th season.  Hendrickson, who has pitched in 10 Major League campaigns, including 113 games with the Orioles between 2009 and 2011, was offered a minor league contract by Baltimore following a try-out at their winter mini camp.  He will turn 41 on June 23.

Buck Showalter and company were at least intrigued enough by Hendrickson’s new sidearm-to-submarine arm angle to give it a whirl; should he not make the Orioles 25-man roster out of camp it’s unclear if he would be offered a roster spot at Triple-A Norfolk, or potentially return to the Revolution if he wishes to keep playing.  Hendrickson’s arm-angle transformation began with Norfolk in 2013, where he posted a 3.04 ERA in 67-plus innings.  He followed that up by dominating Atlantic League hitters last season, with a 1.53 ERA in 52-plus innings in a late-relief role, where he chipped in nine saves along with his 8th inning work.  It’s been a gradual move from side to submarine, but Hendrickson has befuddled hitters the last two seasons by using a variety of arm angles effectively from pitch to pitch.

While pitching in the Majors at 40 was a stated goal, it will be an uphill battle for Hendrickson having not pitched at that level since age 37.  However, he was still more over the top with his arm slot at that point, and everyone seems to agree his mechanical change has offset the aging process, at least against hitters right below the big league level.  Nevertheless, the stage seems to be set for the long-rumored addition of Hendrickson to Baltimore’s minor league staff as a pitching coach, probably next season for the York resident.  The lefty is a veteran of 328 MLB games and 166 Major League starts before becoming a full-time reliever.

For background on all things Mark Hendrickson, including his time in the NBA before he embarked on pro baseball full-time, check out this profile by Ron Gardner which ran in the York Revolutionary Times in 2014.  It’s an interesting story; Hendrickson was drafted by the 76ers after a standout career at Washington State, and was drafted several times by MLB organizations before finally going into baseball full-time with the Blue Jays in the late 90s.

-Paul Braverman

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