SARASOTA, Fla. - Left-hander Mark Hendrickson is adjusting to more than just a new arm slot in his delivery. He’s also throwing a new pitch.
Hendrickson is throwing a slider for the first time in his career.
“To be honest, I’m a completely different pitcher than anybody’s ever seen because I never threw the slider,” Hendrickson said after today’s bullpen session and workout. “I always threw the curveball. But down there, you can kind of mess with some grips and see how it comes out. Slower, firmer. Talk to Darren (O’Day) and see how he throws stuff down there.
“I like what I got for feedback as far as the spin today with the couple that I did throw, so that was good.”
Hendrickson, 38, hadn’t tried the sidearm delivery until being invited to last month’s mini-camp at Camden Yards. The adjustment has been relatively smooth.
“It’s only been about six or seven times. I feel really good about it,” said Hendrickson, who pitched for a club team in York, Pa., last year.
“Obviously, some one-on-one time with Rick (Adair) would be beneficial, I think. When you get everybody the first couple days, I was curious what he thought versus what I felt. He gave me a few pointers while I was out there, but I think for the most part it’s pretty good, pretty consistent.
“The biggest thing for me is obviously the feedback from the catchers and the hitters. I threw to some college hitters over the weekend and their feedback is going to be crucial for me as far as what they are seeing. As a pitcher I always became a better pitcher when I hit or when I hung around hitters, catchers, because that is something you just never see.”
Hendrickson said throwing sidearm feels “very natural.”
“Obviously, there’s going to be times I need to kind of incorporate some of the things they’re trying, but if you talk to Rick in the first two days I threw in Baltimore, it was exciting to see how quickly I picked up some of the stuff we talked about on Wednesday, and then when I came back and threw on Friday,” Hendrickson said. “But the key for me, too, is getting some games where it’s just time to compete.”
Hendrickson has discovered that it’s much easier to get his arm loose with the lower slot.
“There were times (in the past) where it would take me a little while to get loose,” he said. “It’s just a different angle and there’s different soreness that I’m going through, but I think it’s a lot easier. It’s just more fluid. I would say especially in the first five minutes of throwing.
“Remember Cla Meredith when he was with us, and just watching him in the bullpen, how quickly he got loose. And that’s just what I’ve experienced, too. It’s like, ‘Wow, the first couple throws.’ It just seems a little freer.”
Showalter first suggested the change to Hendrickson, and he remains impressed with the results.
“He’s carried it over,” Showalter said. “You can tell he’s been working on some things. I think you’re going to see him get a little lower than he is. It’s progressively getting down. It’s hard to teach that, and Rick’s really good. I’ve seen him do that with multiple guys, and there’s a progression you have to take with it.
“When he gets it right, he’s going to be throwing it from the second baseman. He’s going to be able to create quite a unique angle. He’s been real happy with his command. He’s a good athlete.”
It’s possible that Hendrickson remains at extended spring training to continue the experiment, or he could be assigned to an affiliate, but he’s here to make the team.
“There’s probably not a person more excited being here than Mark,” Showalter said. “It’s not that he missed it, but you can tell that he enjoys it. It’s like he’s got a new toy. It’s kind of like R.A. Dickey. You’ve got to have failure. It’s got to be, I can no longer do it.
“He knew after a year away that it was over, conventionally the way he was doing it, but he knows that this isn’t a one- or two-week tryout. This is something that takes time, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes, and we’re willing to do what it takes if we think at the end of camp that it’s something we want to proceed with.
“I’m not going to say never, but this is a work in progress. You can’t just all of a sudden just change your arm angle and think you’re going to get major league hitters out consistently. He might cut them up all spring, but I don’t see him pitching game one or two or three.
“He’s a good athlete. He’s been healthy, and with the way he’s going to throw, you can throw his age out the window. He’s like a knuckleballer for me.”
Note: Outfielder Trayvon Robinson cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. He will report to camp Friday as a non-roster invitee.
The Orioles designated Robinson for assignment on Friday after claiming pitcher Todd Redmond.
The Orioles have 60 players in camp, including 12 outfielders.