Orioles' Hoey Takes Gets Another Step Closer

BALTIMORE—Rather than let reliever Jim Hoey become a minor league free agent, the Orioles decided to add him to their 40-man roster.

A seemingly insignificant transaction in November actually held big meaning for a pitcher who has been on the comeback trail. Hoey spent parts of two seasons in the big leagues, going 3-5, 8.13 in 34 innings, before shoulder surgery sidelined him in 2008 and knocked him back down to the Double-A level. He opened 2010 back at Bowie, going 2-0, 3.16 in 31 innings to earn a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk.

"There was some sentiment among the player-development people that he made significant strides this year," general manager Andy MacPhail said. "He's always had the arm strength, and he's starting to develop his secondary pitches."

The primary knock on Hoey has been that his mid- to upper-90s fastball doesn't move enough to get major league hitters out consistently, but he has shown improvement since returning.

"He came back and showed good arm strength again, and he started to show a better feel before he left for Norfolk," Bowie pitching coach Kennie Steenstra said. "He began being more of the Jim Hoey that I saw in the past."

Hoey, a 13th-round pick in 2003 out of Rider, went 4-0, 3.38 for Norfolk. He had 70 strikeouts in 53 innings between the two stops, and he worked on both a two-seam fastball and split-finger to use against big league hitters. He also throws a slider, which is a work in progress.

"(The splitter) is a pitch he had thrown in the past," Bowie pitching coach Kennie Steenstra said. "When you start having arm problems, it was a pitch that hurt for him to throw. Now that he's fully healthy again, he was able to pick it back up and he made improvements."

Bird Seed

• The Orioles signed righthander Mitch Atkins to a minor league deal that includes a major league spring training invite. Atkins, 25, went 8-3, 3.63 in 106 innings with Triple-A Iowa in 2010, walking 42 and striking out 76. Atkins also posted a 5.25 ERA in 12 relief innings for the Cubs over the last two years.

• Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin will remain in the organization, though his exact role hadn't been defined. He is expected to return to the Tides, but the Orioles won't announce their minor league staffs until completing the major league staff.