Right-hander Jason Hammel had fluid drained from his sore right knee this week and says he believes he is improving — certainly enough to make Friday's scheduled start and stay on the active roster.
"I really feel like just getting me out there every fifth day is going to help the team," said Hammel, who is 5-1 with a 3.12 ERA. "Obviously, I don't want to kill the [bullpen], but I think missing me for a couple of weeks right now is probably not in the best interest of myself or the team. I know I can help the team right now with this. It's something I can put up with, and I'm just going to keep grinding it out."
Hammel has been able to pitch through the soreness, but as he gets deeper into his outings, his right leg weakens. He lasted five innings two starts ago and 5 1/3 on Saturday, when he said he felt like he was pitching on one leg toward the end of his outing.
He's been working in between starts to strengthen the leg, doing pool exercises in an anti-gravity suit and working out on elliptical and stair-stepping machines.
"We went 5 [innings], then we went 5 1/3, now maybe we'll go 5 2/3," Hammel joked. "But obviously I want to be getting deeper into ball games, but the knee is just not cooperating right now. So I'm doing everything we can between starts to build strength and get to those sixth, seventh, eighth innings."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he considered skipping Hammel's start, but he would have to reshuffle the rotation and that doesn't seem prudent with Hammel healthy enough to pitch. If he is still hurting before his following turn, Hammel could be skipped more easily as the Orioles have off days next Thursday and the following Monday.
For now, Showalter said this Thursday's off day will allow him to push everyone back a day. So Wei-Yin Chen will pitch Saturday, Brian Matusz will go Sunday and Tommy Hunter likely will face the Blue Jays in Toronto on Monday.
Britton's schedule set
Lefty Zach Britton, who has been on the disabled list since March with a left shoulder impingement, will make his first start of the season on a minor-league rehab assignment Saturday at Double-A Bowie against Altoona. If that goes well, he will pitch May 31 for Bowie at Akron.
After that, Showalter said, the Orioles will decide what the next step is. Because he is a pitcher, Britton is allowed 30 days on minor-league assignment before he must be recalled or optioned to an affiliate.
Around the horn
Adam Jones' third-inning single extended his career-best hitting streak to 15 games. That's the longest this season by an Oriole, besting Nolan Reimold's 14-game streak. … Hitting coach Jim Presley left mid-game for a scheduled procedure to correct a kidney stone issue. He has been dealing with it most of the season but hopes this will alleviate the problem. … SS J.J. Hardy received a scheduled day off Wednesday, but Showalter said the rest would be good for Hardy's "barky" shoulder. … The Orioles have 22 quality starts this year — six innings or longer, three runs or fewer — and are 21-1 in those games. They are 37-3 in games with quality starts dating back to July 29, 2011. … Showalter turned 56 on Wednesday.
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