By Tom Robinson
© April 4, 2013
The Norfolk Tides will open the International League season tonight with a roster filled with major-league veterans who could slide up to Baltimore and contribute in a pinch.
In all, 22 of 25 Tides have played in the big leagues.
That's how Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette constructed his Triple-A team a year ago, when outfielders Lew Ford and Nate McLouth moved up from Norfolk and had an impact while graybeards Dontrelle Willis, Jamie Moyer and Miguel Tejada passed through on auditions.
These Tides begin 2013 even more top-heavy with ex-major-leaguers the Orioles want to assess, especially on the mound and in the outfield.
Pitchers in the spotlight include two-time AL All-Star Freddy Garcia, who is 36, 38-year-old lefty Mark Hendrickson - also a former NBA player - and Jair Jurrjens, an NL All-Star with Atlanta only two seasons ago.
Meanwhile, in the outfield, Conor Jackson, Baltimore's last spring-training cut, has played 658 big-league games over seven seasons and has a .271 batting average in the majors.
Here are 10 players of particular interest as the season begins tonight at 7:05 against the Durham Bulls. They include guys on the Tides' roster and others we can expect to see here at some point:
P Freddy Garcia
Garcia is expected to be a short-timer. Guys with his history typically are promoted to the majors relatively quickly or else are given their release to try and find work elsewhere. "The Chief," 36, has logged 14 big-league seasons, the past two with the Yankees, for whom he won 12 games and had a 3.62 ERA two years ago.
He pitched poorly in spring training with San Diego, however, and was cut. The O's signed him last week.
P Zach Britton
The 25-year-old lefty has made 39 starts with the Orioles the past two seasons, compiling a 4.74 ERA over 214 innings. He was especially strong for the O's last August, when he allowed just three earned runs over 211?3 innings and won all three of those starts.
He is one of three Tides pitchers on the organization's 40-man roster, joining Opening- Night starter Zach Clark and Triple-A rookie Mike Belfiore. This is Britton's fourth stint in Norfolk.
P Mark Hendrickson
One of 12 athletes to play in the NBA and MLB, the 6-foot-9 lefty is back in Norfolk, where he worked in 24 games in 2011. At 38, he has made 328 big-league appearances over 10 years, but none since a brief stint in Baltimore two years ago.
A reliever who didn't play last year, Hendrickson has a newly- adopted sidearm delivery. He pitched 82?3 innings in Os' spring training with seven strikeouts and four walks.
IF Jonathan Schoop
Baseball America rates Schoop, a 21-year-old from Curacao, the Orioles' third-best prospect behind Double-A pitchers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. The organization continues to push Schoop, who has moved quickly through the chain.
Triple-A will be an interesting challenge. Schoop batted .245 at Bowie last year, fanned 103 times and had just a .710 OPS. This spring, he hit two homers that helped the team from the Netherlands reach the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic.
OF L.J. Hoes
Jerome O'Bryan Hoes was Baltimore's Minor League Player of the Year last year, which included a .300 batting average in 82 games with the Tides. A third-round pick out of Washington, D.C., in '08, Hoes has stolen 20 bases in each of his past two seasons.
A right-handed hitter, Hoes got 25 at-bats with the O's this spring and batted .320. Last season, he collected 147 hits at Double- and Triple-A, including seven triples.
OF Conor Jackson
The 30-year-old has by far the most big-league experience among Tides position players - 658 games over seven seasons with Arizona, Oakland and Boston. He batted .300 for the Diamondbacks in '08, and last played in the big leagues in 2011 with the Red Sox.
Jackson made it difficult for O's manager Buck Showalter to cut him in spring training; he batted .302 with three home runs. He played for Charlotte in the IL last season, averaging .277 in 88 games.
P Jairo Asencio
Once known as Luis Valdez (it's a long story), Asencio recorded no saves in 39 big-league appearances with Atlanta, Cleveland and the Cubs, but had 53 in the IL with Gwinnett over '09 and '11.
The Brewers expected Asencio to compete for a bullpen spot this spring, but he arrived late after visa problems in the Dominican and was traded last week to the O's. He sinks the ball and has allowed just eight homers in his past 139 Triple-A innings.
P Daniel Schlereth
The 26th overall draft pick in '08 out of Arizona, Schlereth reached the bigs the next year with Arizona and was a left-handed bullpen specialist for two seasons in Detroit before suffering a shoulder injury last year.
Schlereth, the son of former NFL lineman and current ESPN football analyst Mark Schlereth, has a 4.35 big-league ERA in 94 appearances. He worked seven innings in spring training and gave up 11 hits and eight earned runs.
P Jair Jurrjens
The right-hander from Curacao was one of several who contended for the No. 5 starting spot in Baltimore. Knee trouble dogged his time in Atlanta, where he won 13 games in 2011 with a 2.96 ERA.
But he pitched just 481?3 innings last year for the Braves, had a 6.89 ERA and was released. At only 27, Jurrjens could still have intriguing upside and fits Duquette's plan to compile proven depth at Triple-A.
OF Henry Urrutia
No, Urrutia is not starting out here - he's doing an extended spring training stint - but he might arrive later, so it's worth paying attention. The Cuban defector is 26 and rusty from more than two years of inactivity; visa troubles in the Dominican Republic and then Haiti delayed his arrival to the O's, who signed him last summer for $778,500.
The Orioles expect Urrutia, a 6-3, left-handed hitter, could be good enough to reach Baltimore this season, with perhaps a stop with the Tides along the way.
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