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Penn's Job to Lose

With Danys Baez being moved to the bullpen, Hayden Penn will start today for the Orioles in their exhibition game against the Florida Marlins. The start, while not his first, may be his most important.

Since he is out of options, Penn is nearly guaranteed a spot on the Orioles Opening Day roster however, what his role is seems dependent upon the two scheduled starts he has left. If Penn pitches well, he's likely the team's fifth starter. If Penn falters, he's ticketed as the team's long man.

Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson seem likely candidates for the Nos. 3 and 4 spots while Alfredo Simon remains a long shot and Brian Bass is slowly becoming marginalized with Hayden Penn seeming to have the inside track.

It seems simple enough but the issue with Penn has often been bad luck.

Penn made his major league debut in 2005 at the age of 20 against the Detroit Tigers and gave up one run while striking out four and walking four over 4 2/3 innings of an eventual Orioles loss.

Penn went through some struggles but came out of 2005 relatively unscathed, going 3-2 in eight starts while posting a 6.34 ERA. The biggest thing for Penn to work on was keeping the walks down as he handed out 21 intentional passes compared to 18 strikeouts.

With that modest success, 2006 was supposed to feature another step forward for Penn. After starting the season with Class AAA Ottawa where he went 2-2 with a 1.48 ERA, Penn was called up in May. Brought up on a Sunday, Penn was scheduled to pitch on Tuesday; unfortunately he spent the Monday in between having his appendix removed.

The surgery derailed Penn's season and to this point his career. With momentum building, the then 21-year-old right-hander had to work to recover from surgery and rehab his way back up to the club.

Penn was recalled late 2006 but was torched by the opposition sporting a robust 15.10 ERA to go with a 0-4 record in six starts and hasn't been in the majors since.

In 2007, Penn had surgery on his elbow to remove bone spurs which kept him off the field for the better part of the year.

Twice last season Penn was being considered for a call up. In May, a stiff shoulder sidelined any potential move while in August he was hit by a shard of a broken bat before being shut down with more shoulder stiffness.

All of which has led me to believe that at some point Penn will miss time due to an actual snakebite.

However this spring Penn has earned praise from Manager Dave Trembley by showing the flashes of talent that made him one of the Orioles' top prospects just a couple years ago.

If Penn can avoid losing another organ, watch for splintered wood and stay away from Jobu's rum while returning to the form he once had, the still young 24-year-old pitcher may finally land a spot in the team's Opening Day rotation.

By CJ Holley  |  March 26, 2009; 12:06 PM ET
Categories:  Orioles  
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All of which has led me to believe that at some point Penn will miss time due to an actual snakebite.

Very well done CJ! Here is hoping Hayden can get his career back on track. With 2009 being a throwaway season in some respects, I can not even understand why (other than the sake of stoking the fire of competition) there has even been any question about Penn being the 5th starter. The time is now to "fish or cut bait" with him considering his long term prospects for being part of the rotation solely depend on him pitching very well from here on out.

Posted by: virtueandvice | March 26, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

"21 intentional passes "

I'll give you a free pass on that one.

Guthrie and Uehara are ##1 & 2. Hendrickson and Eaton are some place after that. Bass is a fish out of water in the rotation.

Lost track of Albers and Patton. Where are they now?

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 26, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

"Intentional passes." Damn, that's gonna haunt me. Thanks for the catch.

Albers will start the season coming out of the Orioles' bullpen while Patton was optioned earlier this spring to Class AA Bowie.

Posted by: cjholley | March 26, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

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