Sharp curve for Trachsel

The Baltimore Sun

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Rather than sit around his house and watch television footage of pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, Steve Trachsel decided to start making some weekend plans that didn't include baseball.

He told this story yesterday during a conference call before boarding a late flight for Fort Lauderdale, where he'll begin playing baseball. Funny how this game shoves a man aside and then pulls him back.

Ignored much of the winter, Trachsel drew quick interest from the Orioles on Monday after they learned Kris Benson likely would miss the entire season because of a partially torn rotator cuff. The two sides reached an agreement that same day, and the deal became official after Trachsel, 36, passed his physical Tuesday.

"It's been a long 48 hours. That's for sure," said Trachsel, who was 15-8 with a 4.97 ERA last season for the New York Mets.

"It was getting to the point where I didn't think anything was going to happen, and if something was going to happen, was it going to be kind of worthwhile to play based on how far away I was going to be from my family [in San Diego]? It was most likely going to be a minor league deal, which I wasn't planning on signing.

"I was a little surprised based on winning 15 games and being healthy and all that. There was a large flurry of signings early. We just didn't know what to think. A lot of pitchers signed for a lot of money, and teams probably got to their spending limit early."

The limited interest in Trachsel on the free-agent market might have been linked to his poor showings in last year's playoffs. Starting for the Mets, Trachsel allowed two earned runs and six hits in 3 1/3 innings in a Division Series game, and five earned runs and five hits in one inning in the National League Championship Series.

"I don't know what other people are saying or thinking, but if that's the case, it's kind of unfair," he said. "If it's true, that's something that's on their head."

Trachsel wasn't prepared to end his career and move onto something else.

"I don't know if I would have called it retirement," he said. "I would have stayed in shape and you never know what happens. Players go down in spring training all the time, players go down in April."

They also go down in February, leaving Trachsel as the favorite to beat out Hayden Penn for the open rotation spot. It's not like he expects to be used in any other capacity except as a starter. "I don't know what else I would do," he said.

The eyes have it

After Daniel Cabrera finished his physical yesterday, he sat down at his locker and began to dress for the club's first workout. He tried on just about all the team-issued gear left in his locker, but one accessory was noticeably absent. Cabrera had laser eye surgery after last season, allowing him to ditch the black corrective goggles he wore for the second half of the year.

"It is good," he said. "Now, I can see better than what I see before."

The Orioles hope that Cabrera's improved vision will help him find the strike zone a little more regularly this season. Asked if he thinks that will be the case, Cabrera, who led the American League in walks and was tied for 15th in strikeouts last season, said, "It's supposed to be like that. We'll see."

Hoey regroups

Reliever Jim Hoey said yesterday that it took him halfway through the offseason for it to sink in that he made the jump from low Single-A Delmarva to the Orioles' bullpen in one season. It took even less time for his tired right shoulder to feel 100 percent again.

Hoey, 24, was shut down last September, ending the longest season of his career. He appeared in 61 games, including 12 with the Orioles. In the three previous years, he pitched in 22 total games.

Hoey attributed his shoulder soreness to his increased workload. He hired a personal trainer over the winter, but the Orioles' flurry of bullpen additions gives him long odds to break camp with the club.

"I'm going to fight for a position - it's inevitable," he said. "Hopefully I can prove myself. It's in the back of my mind, Triple-A, start there and do well. Inevitably, I want to make the team, but whatever happens, happens."

Around the horn

Orioles officials have picked up dialogue with Erik Bedard's agent, Mark Pieper, in an effort to avoid arbitration. ... The Orioles' April 2 opener at Minnesota has been moved up an hour to 7:08 Eastern time. ... To make room for Trachsel on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated reliever Ryan Keefer for assignment. ... Catcher Eli Whiteside left the team after the death of his grandfather, but he's expected back tomorrow. Catcher Brian Bock was invited to camp. ... Pitcher Jose Acevedo didn't report yesterday. ... Outfielders Nick Markakis and Jeff Fiorentino took batting practice yesterday.

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