Hendrickson inks Minors deal to stay with O's

Hendrickson inks Minors deal to stay with O's

BALTIMORE -- Veteran Mark Hendrickson is returning to the Orioles, as the lefty reliever agreed to terms on a Minor League deal, which includes an invite to Spring Training, on Monday afternoon.

The one-year deal, which was first reported by The Baltimore Sun, was confirmed by Hendrickson in a text message to MLB.com. Hendrickson said he and his family, who reside year-round in nearby York, Pa., are "very excited" about staying in the Orioles' organization.

Per team policy, the deal will not be announced officially until Hendrickson has undergone a physical.

Several teams had interest in the 36-year-old Hendrickson earlier this winter, most notably the Rockies, who were the only other team that Hendrickson seriously considered joining. In the end, the opportunity to stay in Baltimore -- where he has pitched each of the last two seasons -- and the strong possibility he will make the club out of Spring Training, won out.

Hendrickson will likely be competing with Clay Rapada for one of the left-handed roles in manager Buck Showalter's revamped bullpen, although he could also be used as the long man, a role that right-hander Rick VandenHurk is also being considered for. Despite a 1-6 record in 2010, Hendrickson averaged 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings, and he will provide bullpen depth for a 'pen whose only projected lefty is Michael Gonzalez. Rapada was also signed to a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite.

If Hendrickson makes the team out of Spring Training and remains on the big league roster all year, he'll earn approximately $900,000. If he doesn't, or spends part of the year in the Minor Leagues, that rate will adjust as part of a split contract.

His signing marks the third free-agent returnee to the Orioles this winter -- joining Cesar Izturis and Koji Uehara -- and Hendrickson's value in mentoring the young arms in the bullpen, such as Jason Berken last season, is another plus for the organization. The team declined his $1.2 million option for 2011 on Nov. 2, but there was always a thought of bringing Hendrickson back on a lesser deal.

In two seasons with the Orioles, Hendrickson is 7-11 with a 4.74 ERA. Although he has worked mostly in relief, he can be used in myriad of roles, with 166 career Major League starts under his belt.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.