While wondering whether Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson presenting Manny Machado with his Gold Glove last night was also a passing of the torch ...
The list of minor league free agents includes a 39-year-old pitcher who spent the entire 2013 season at the Triple-A level and isn’t ready to quit.
Left-hander Mark Hendrickson is putting retirement on hold and will attempt to latch on with a club before spring training. He transitioned into a sidearmer at the advice of Orioles manager Buck Showalter and went 5-3 with a 3.06 ERA in 40 games at Norfolk, with 55 hits, 17 walks and 37 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings.
The Orioles didn’t include Hendrickson among their September call-ups, denying him a chance to pitch in the majors for the first time since 2011.
“I was very pleased with how everything progressed,” Hendrickson said. “I’m not going to lie. I was a little disappointed about not getting a chance maybe in September, but considering where I started when I saw everybody in spring training until the end of the year, I’m very happy with how everything went. I hope it lays the foundation for next year with the Orioles or somebody else. That’s kind of my thought going forward.
“Obviously, the free agent period just started. It’s still early. I’m trying to figure out what’s out there, what the market is like, but the big thing for me is seeing how it (sidearm delivery) plays at the big league level. I said last year that if I got to the big leagues and stunk it up, maybe the writing would be on the wall as far as being done as a player. But I didn’t get that chance, and I’m still very intrigued by how it will play at the big league level. And there are some thing I’ve got to get better at if I’m going to evaluate myself based on my first year doing this. But I’m very happy with how I progressed. Very happy.”
Hendrickson and his family continue to live in York, Pa., which makes the Orioles a preferred landing spot. He wants to reach out to Showalter, but hasn’t been able to connect.
“Obviously, I’d love to get his feedback from an organizational standpoint,” said Hendrickson, who went 1-0 with a 5.73 ERA in eight relief appearances with the Orioles in 2011. “I’m very happy with the opportunity they gave me last year. I don’t know what’s going to happen moving forward. I’ve got to be open to everything. I obviously have a connection with the Orioles. I love the organization, love where it’s been going. But to determine what will happen, it’s hard to say sitting here in November - what their thoughts are, how everything unfolds, what’s going on.
“I’m just excited. I’m already in workout mode, preparing, because as you get older, you have to really ... it’s a 12-month process. I’m still into it, still excited about it, still motivated. Those are encouraging signs for me.”
Hendrickson is 58-74 with a 5.03 ERA in 10 major league seasons with five teams. He spent last summer pitching in York County’s Susquehanna League, an amateur adult league. Scouts didn’t exactly flock to his games.
Then came the adjustments to his delivery. Lower arm slot. Moving to the opposite side of the pitching rubber.
At Norfolk this year, he turned in scoreless outings in seven of his last eight appearances. Left-handers batted .231 against him this season, right-handers .220. The fire continued to burn inside him.
“I still feel like I’ve got a few years left and I want to see it play at the big league level and I want to win a ring, and what better place to do that than in Baltimore?” Hendrickson said.
“I control what I can control and that’s being a dad and working out and running my other business and having a good Thanksgiving and Christmas. Usually, stuff picks up in January. I’m not worried about it. Younger guys get upset when they sign in October or November and say, ‘This isn’t what I signed up for,’ and I say, ‘Well, look when you signed.’
“Usually, the pecking order is relievers tend to sign at the end of January or early February. That’s not unheard of, though my situation may be different because I’ll most likely have to sign a minor league deal.”
The coaching vacancies with the Orioles - Dave Wallace was hired as pitching coach, and Dom Chiti will be named bullpen coach as early as Monday - led Hendrickson to consider the next phase of his professional life.
“I follow along,” Hendrickson said. “I try to stay out of it as far as the rumor mill, but I’m a baseball player. I kind of like to know what’s going on in the baseball environment. I followed the pitching coach thing. I’m just curious to see how that all unfolds. I’m a fan, obviously, to some degree, and I want to know what’s going on with the organization.
“I never thought about coaching, but when I saw the job open up, I thought, ‘Oh, boy, maybe the writing’s on the wall there to some degree.’ I’ve always enjoyed giving feedback to the younger players. I wouldn’t consider myself as having the best career, but I think that I’ve been through a lot of things that allow me to relate to different guys and what they’re going through.
“I don’t know anything about (Wallace), but obviously he’s well-respected, from what I hear. I have fond memories of pretty much any pitching coach I’ve worked with. It’s nice to get fresh eyes. But a coach is just going to be another resource. I’ve told some younger guys, you’re not going to take everything from every coach, but if you can take bits and pieces and something might click, that’s what you hope for. And I think the encouraging part is if guys are willing to really honestly evaluate themselves. I think that’s something as players we’ve got to do a better job of, being open to what our strengths are and what areas we have to improve in. I think that’s the hope of everybody as a whole, but it’s easier said than done. Especially when you’re in your 20s.”
Hendrickson chuckles, knowing he’s a long way from his 20s. He’ll turn 40 in June, but 2013 was a rebirth of sorts.
Shameless plug alert: I’m appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” from 11 a.m.- noon on MASN. I’m also serving as guest speaker tonight at the Eastern Shore Baseball Foundation’s Hall of Fame induction banquet at the Salisbury Moose Lodge #654.
If news breaks tonight, MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski will have you covered.