Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Human Shields: Eaton and Hendrickson

Adam Eaton, the highly criticized Orioles pitcher who allowed a total of 10 ER in his first two starts totaling 8 IP, turned in a masterful performance against the White Sox last week, striking out 9 during 7.1 IP for the win.

And two nights ago, he took to the mound again.

Which Adam Eaton showed up? The Eaton who’d been terrible in the first two starts or the Eaton who seemed to have everything working against the White Sox?

The answer? Neither.

Eaton clearly didn’t have the stuff he had against the White Sox when he faced the Angels. He allowed 5 ER, walked 4 batters, struck out only 2 (he’d had 19 K’s in his first 17 IP) and gave up 6 hits. Almost half of his 109 pitches were for balls.

But the most important thing was that he went 6 IP. He saved the bullpen that costly extra inning. And even though the Orioles lost 7-5, Eaton was able to give the Orioles what they needed from him the most – 6 innings while keeping the team in the game.

Eaton will not be in the rotation come September. But until he is replaced, the best we can hope for is that Eaton keeps the team in the game and eats innings. And in his last 2 starts, he has.

You can’t say the same for Mark Hendrickson.

In 4 starts, Hendrickson has only gone 18 IP, which averages out to a little less than 5 IP per start. Hendrickson has also allowed 7 home runs, which is the most in the majors.

And even when Hendrickson has pitched “well” and kept the Orioles in the game, he’s thrown a lot of pitches and seems to always be on the verge of disaster with men on base in seemingly every inning he pitches. His WHIP is an alarming 1.96.

Hendrickson was signed to be a reliever, a role in which he’s succeeded in the past, so the faster the O’s can move him into the bullpen, the better. Lurch faces Roy Halliday and the first place Blue Jays on Friday night.


The Bottom Line: Eaton will be mediocre to bad, but justifiable given the Orioles' circumstances. On the other hand, the tight-rope that Hendrickson has been tip-toeing across up until now is about to snap.


I’d lobbied for Chris Waters to take over for one of Eaton or Mark Hendrickson, but Waters looks to be struggling at Norfolk, with a 4.50 ERA and more walks (11) than K’s (9). David Pauley, however, seems like he could be a good replacement, with a 3.00 ERA, 8 K’s and 3 BB. But perhaps the best replacement of them all is David Hernandez. The flamethrower has an ERA of 3.07, and more importantly, 23 K’s to only 5 BB. Many view Hernandez as a potential reliever in the majors, but there is no reason why Hernandez can’t get a shot as a starter first.

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