By Eduardo A. Encina, The Baltimore Sun
9:06 PM EST, February 20, 2012
SARASOTA, Fla. —
The nomadic professional baseball career of Orioles left-hander Dana Eveland has seen its share of spring training sites.
When the 28-year-old pitcher arrived at the Ed Smith Stadium Complex last weekend, it marked Eveland's seventh stint with a big league organization in as many years.
The Orioles hope Eveland, acquired in a trade with the Dodgers during this offseason's winter meetings for a pair of prospects, has found his form.
Eveland — on the other hand — hopes he's found a home.
"I'm a new guy again. I'm a new guy every year, it feels like," Eveland said Monday. "I'm just hoping I can have a good spring and follow it into a decent season, and maybe stay. That's all I want right now, is to find a place to call home at least for a few years."
In trying to assemble a starting rotation that can total 1,000 innings, new Orioles executive vice president for baseball operations Dan Duquette covets the fact that Eveland threw 183 2/3 innings last season, even though 154 of those were at Triple-A Albuquerque.
He's spent most of his career shuffling between the majors and Triple-A, his best season coming in 2008 with Oakland, when he was 9-9 with a 4.34 ERA in 29 starts (168 innings).
This year's spring training has already been better than last year's, when Eveland injured his hamstring running sprints during the first day of camp, killing his chance of making the Los Angeles Dodgers' Opening Day roster.
But Eveland said it might have been the best thing to happen to him in his baseball career.
"A blessing in disguise," Eveland called it.
He began the season pitching home games at Albuquerque's Isotopes Park, known as a pitcher's nightmare because of the high altitude (5,300 feet above sea level), the warm summer air and a near constant wind blowing out to center.
For a contact pitcher like Eveland, it offered his toughest test. His breaking balls didn't move as well. He had to keep the ball down — honing his sinker — and locate his pitches better than ever. He went 12-8 with a 4.38 ERA in 25 starts.
"I don't know if I have really had to have concentrated on pitching as much as I did there," Eveland said. "I've pitched in Triple-A before and have been able to just go out there and throw the ball and have success. That doesn't happen in Albuquerque. You have to adjust.
"Balls don't break nearly as much. It really came down to keeping the ball low and locating more than ever. You always try to do that. You're always taught that, but it was the only chance to succeed there, just pounding down in the zone and the corners. My location is a lot better."
Last season, he kept the ball on the ground. He still allowed his hits —151 in 154 innings — but also induced 31 double-play balls.
He was 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA with the Dodgers — including a 3-0 record and 0.44 ERA in three road starts — following a late-August call-up, but he was a likely non-tender candidate after Los Angeles signed lefty Chris Capuano and was nearing a deal with free agent Aaron Harang. The Orioles dealt Triple-A outfielder Tyler Henson and 22-year-old low Class-A pitcher Jarret Martin for Eveland.
"He did some things well last year in a tough pitcher's league," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "There's a reason why he was on the Dodgers' roster (in 2011) and we felt for what we gave up, it was worth taking a look at him to see where he was."
Eveland, who owns a career big league ERA of 5.52, is one of 30 pitchers in Orioles camp — and he is one of the six who are out of minor league options — so making the roster will be a challenge.
"I landed in a place where I knew I was going to be able to compete for a spot," Eveland said. "They signed a lot of veteran guys to multi-year deals. Those guys are locked into a spot. When [Jeremy] Guthriewas here, he was pretty much the only one guaranteed a spot. So at least I get to come over here and compete. I'm very happy about that."
Since acquiring Eveland early this offseason, the Orioles have added more rotation candidates and there are now more than a dozen in camp competing for five spots. Eveland said he's fine with being a starter or reliever.
Regardless of where he fits, the Orioles remain intrigued.
"There's some unknown there," Showalter said. "There's some curiosity. There are so many guys from that 28-32-year-old range, especially pitchers, who start to figure it out a little bit. We'll see if Dana has reached that point."
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