Mark Hendrickson had other opportunities available, but the veteran reliever's main wish all along was to return to the Orioles. The two sides made that happen today by agreeing to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training.
Hendrickson's choices came down to the Orioles and Colorado Rockies. But his familiarity with the organization, its players and the region won out.
"This is probably the best group of guys I have played with in my career, and my wife says this is the best group of wives and girlfriends she has been involved with in all the years we have been associated with this game," Hendrickson said. "That says a lot about the people this organization has in it."
If Hendrickson makes the club, it will mark his third straight season in Baltimore. If he is on the team all year, he will make $900,000. It is a split contract if he plays in the minors.
The veteran lefty has gone 7-11 with a 4.74 ERA over the past two seasons, making 93 of his 105 appearances in relief.
Hendrickson, 36, will compete for one or two available spots in the revamped bullpen. With lefty setup man Michael Gonzalez having had arm issues in 2010, the Orioles were looking to add more bullpen depth from the left side. If manager Buck Showalter decides to keep two lefties, Hendrickson, fellow nonroster invitee Clay Rapada, Troy Patton and Pedro Viola will duel to make the Opening Day roster.
A well-respected presence in the Orioles' clubhouse the past two seasons whose leadership has been applauded by several of the organization's young pitchers, Hendrickson also could fit the long-man role. He has made 166 starts during his big league career, which spans five teams and parts of nine seasons.
The 6-foot-9 graduate of Washington State started his career as a professional basketball player and participated in 114 NBA games from 1996 to 2000 before signing with the Toronto Blue Jays. He is one of 12 athletes to play in both the NBA and major league baseball.
Hendrickson and his wife, who live year round in York, Pa., welcomed their first child in December. The big lefty had cited both the proximity to his family and the familiarity with the organization as reasons he wanted to return to the Orioles for another season.
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