VandenHurk not worried about roster spot

Rick VandenHurk hasn't been obsessing over every pitcher that the Orioles add to their camp roster, though each move could impact his future in the organization.

If it's me, I'm keeping a chart and pacing the floor. I might be up to two packs a day.

VandenHurk is out of minor league options and would have to be exposed to waivers and outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk if he doesn't make the club in spring training. The Orioles want to add a veteran starter and one more reliever, but that doesn't seem to concern a guy who's trying to crack the rotation or bullpen.

"I kind of know what's going on," said VandenHurk, 25, who was acquired from the Marlins on July 31 for left-hander Will Ohman. "Other than that, I've got to prepare myself and make sure I'll be in the best shape I can be when spring training starts and make sure I'm ready. That's the only thing I can worry about.

"They got me in a trade and that's obviously for a reason, and I hope I can fit in their plans. The thing for me is I just want to prepare myself the best I can and come into spring training in the best shape I can be in and just go from there. I can't worry about other stuff that's not in my control."

VandenHurk, who went 0-1 with a 4.96 ERA in seven games with the Orioles, started a throwing program in mid-December and will tackle his first bullpen session next week. He isn't focused on being a starter or reliever - just an Oriole.

"I just want to make the team, first of all," he said. "I obviously want to be on the roster when opening day starts, and I guess spring training will determine what role I'll be in. I'll be ready to start or to be a reliever. Either way. I want to make the team no matter what."

VandenHurk returned to the U.S. on Saturday from his native Holland, where countryman Bert Blyleven's election to baseball's Hall of Fame remains big news.

"We've been waiting a long time," VandenHurk said. "Everybody knows what he's done and what he's accomplished in 22 years in the big leagues. The things he's done, he's been amazing. We were very happy when we saw that he got elected. It's just great."

VandenHurk has a special connection to Blyleven that began as a small child.

"Growing up, obviously, he was the only pitcher from Holland and my dad was a fan of his," VandenHurk said. "As a kid, you grow up seeing that and it kind of turns over to you. He was the only Dutch player in the big leagues and he was really good. He dominated. As a little kid, you become a fan."

That relationship grew into something more concrete once VandenHurk began playing professionally.

"I got to play in the World Baseball Classic and he was the pitching coach, and that's how I got to know him very well," said VandenHurk, who had dinner with Blyleven last spring in Fort Myers. "He taught me many things during the Classic, and after that he always kept in touch and followed my career. He called me and sent me text messages, giving me a heads-up and telling me things to remember and think about, like, make sure when you're pitching to get after it. Just little things, but it's the little stuff that helps a lot, and I'm very grateful that he's done that. And it's coming from a Hall of Famer, which is really nice."

One final note: VandenHurk said he prefers to have his last name spelled as it appears on the back of his uniform jersey. In Holland, he's van den Hurk. On a baseball field, he's VandenHurk.

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