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O's set to take on AL champion Rays

O's set to take on AL champions

BALTIMORE -- Bring on the Rays. The Orioles fought through a one-sided series finale against the Yankees on Thursday and know that their lot in life won't get any easier. Baltimore will play host to Tampa Bay over the next three days, greeting the defending American League champions right after playing strong against New York.

"It was a good series for us," said designated hitter Luke Scott, who homered in Thursday's defeat. "Winning series, that's the goal. Obviously, we wanted the sweep, but tip your hat to the guys on the mound over there. They did a good job. You just walk away knowing you came prepared and did the best you could."

And now, the Orioles will need to curb a somewhat distressing trend. Baltimore has seen just one of its first three starters complete six innings, subjecting the bullpen to a heavy workload early. Manager Dave Trembley has said several times that his starters need to carry the load, and he reiterated that point Thursday.

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"I know that in order for us to be successful and to preserve the bullpen over the course of the year, the starters have to go longer," he said. "That's why I kept [Jeremy] Guthrie in there the other night. But I also think there's some common sense that goes into it. It also depends on who you have in the bullpen, who's available that time."

Guthrie, who went six innings on Opening Day, is the lone exception thus far. Koji Uehara went five strong innings in his big league debut, and Trembley had to lift Alfredo Simon with no outs in the sixth on Thursday. Now, southpaw swingman Mark Hendrickson will be the latest arm to get a chance to step into the void.

Hendrickson, who was considered a reliever for most of Spring Training, leaped into rotation consideration when Rich Hill continued to have problems with a sore elbow. And now, he seems to be starting for the foreseeable future. Hendrickson, who pitched for the Rays in 2006, will get to face them on Friday.

"[Hendrickson's] a guy that really does pitch to contact," said Trembley. "But he'll try to run the ball in on right-handers with his cutter. They're going to put the ball in play. He needs the guys behind him to make the plays. You've got to have your positioning just right. He'll throw it over the plate."

Pitching matchup
BAL: LHP Mark Hendrickson (7-8, 5.45 ERA in 2008)
Hendrickson was signed by the Orioles in the offseason to slot in as a long reliever and spot starter, but several of Baltimore's projected starters stumbled during Spring Training. That ceded a spot to Hendrickson, one of the more experienced pitchers on Baltimore's staff. The southpaw began his career with the Blue Jays but has since bounced to the Rays, Dodgers and Marlins before resurfacing in the AL East with the Orioles.

TB: RHP Andy Sonnanstine (13-9, 4.38 ERA in 2008)
Sonnanstine is a master of deception, employing an array of pitches that he can throw from all different angles. But he has learned to primarily use his fastball to set up the other pitches. Among those other pitches, Sonnanstine has added a changeup to his repertoire this spring, which he is fast gaining confidence in the more he masters it. The right-hander's mantra is to dispatch of hitters one way or the other in three pitches, which allows him to get deeper into the games and save the bullpen. He is 2-2 with a 6.67 ERA in five career starts against the Orioles; he is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in two career starts at Camden Yards.

Bird bites
Baltimore's bullpen allowed 11 earned runs in 11 innings against the Yankees. ... The Orioles went just 3-15 against the Rays last season, the most one-sided showing in the history of their season series. In fact, Baltimore has lost 12 straight games to Tampa Bay. Prior to 2008, the Orioles had won the season series seven times in eight years. ... The Orioles used three relievers on Thursday and should have a full bullpen on Friday.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• MASN 2

On radio
• 105.7 The Fan

Up next
• Saturday: Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie, 1-0, 4.50) vs. Rays (Jeff Niemann, 2-2, 5.06 in 2008), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Orioles (Adam Eaton, 4-8, 5.80 in 2008) vs. Rays (James Shields, 0-1, 8.44), 1:35 p.m. ET
• Monday: Orioles (Koji Uehara, 1-0, 1.80) at Rangers (TBD), 8:05 p.m. ET

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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