O's notes: Hammel considering surgery that could keep him out until September

Loose-body cartilage is causing pain in right-hander's right knee

July 14, 2012|By Dan Connolly

The Orioles got both good and bad news from a MRI taken Saturday on pitcher Jason Hammel's painful right knee, which forced him out of Friday's game in the fourth inning.

There is no new damage, but loose-body cartilage has floated in a knee joint causing continual pain. He'll miss at least one start, but is leaning toward getting arthroscopic surgery that would land him on the disabled list and potentially sideline him until September.

“Where [the loose cartilage] was before it was kind of uncomfortable,” Hammel said. “Now it is kind of in the joint, kind of pinned into the joint, so every time I bend the knee it pretty much hits the nerve in the area, so it's not very comfortable right now.”

Hammel said he hadn't made a decision on a course of action — that could come Sunday — but he is leaning toward getting surgically repaired now instead of resting the knee and hoping the situation resolves itself.

“Honestly, I just want my knee to feel normal again. So I'm kind of leaning toward surgery but I haven't made that decision yet,” said Hammel, who is 8-6 with a 3.54 ERA in 18 starts and has been the club's most consistent starter. “[The decision] has got to be soon because I don't want to miss too much time. It a pretty simple procedure to go in there and just let it be scoped, but like I said, I could let it rest. And it could be fine that way, but it'd be better just to get it taken care of.”

Orioles manager Buck Showalter is already without a set starter for Tuesday — it's likely to be lefty Zach Britton — and now will need to find a starter for Wednesday, Hammel's scheduled spot. Lefty Brian Matusz, who would have to be scratched from Sunday's start at Triple-A Norfolk, is the most likely candidate. Matusz pitched well in his first outing at Norfolk after going 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 16 starts with the Orioles earlier this season.

“I think we'll bring it to a head [Sunday],” Showalter said. “[Hammel] just wants to gather other opinions and decide, if he does something, where he'd do it. He just wants to get it where he's not thinking about it all the time. If it is a surgery, he still could be back, in a good scenario, in the first week of September. He would be a nice addition for us [then] if we have to go in that direction. But we'll see.”

It's a big blow to the Orioles, who lose their de facto ace of a rotation that's already in question. And it's a brutal one for the 30-year-old right-hander in the middle of his best season.

“I feel like I am letting the guys down if I miss starts. I want to be part of this,” Hammel said. “It's tough because my body is letting me down right now and I feel so good. … If something does happen [with a surgery], the other guys are going to step up. It'll be an opportunity for somebody else. And as soon as I can come back and help the team I am going to do that.”

More roster moves coming

With a 13-inning game Saturday, the Orioles had to use all of their relievers except Luis Ayala, who pitched Friday. So they may need to add a bullpen arm for Sunday, Showalter said. And that would be just one of at least four moves this week.

Tillman is currently not on the 25-man roster, so someone will have to be sent out by Monday. Then they'll have to make room for Tuesday's and Wednesday's starters.

That's on the heels of two moves on Saturday, when catcher Taylor Teagarden, who had been on the disabled list all season, and reliever Miguel Socolovich were summoned to the big leagues while reserve catcher Ronny Paulino was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk and lefty reliever Dana Eveland was designated for assignment.

Socolovich, who made his big-league debut on Saturday, and infielder Steve Tolleson look to be the most vulnerable right now. Outfielder-infielder Steve Pearce is another possibility, but he could refuse an assignment to the minors if he clears waivers.

Paulino down, Teagarden up

Wanting a stronger defensive catcher as Matt Wieters' backup, the Orioles activated Teagarden from the 60-day disabled list Saturday. A back injury kept him sidelined through most of the spring and early summer and he didn't begin playing in games until earlier this month, hitting .250 in nine rehab games for three Orioles affiliates.

“Yeah, long road,” said Teagarden, who hit the game-winning homer in the Orioles' 8-6 win Saturday. “It's not the way I envisioned this year going for me, but I'm extremely happy to be in a big league clubhouse. I'm healthy and I'm excited.”

Paulino, 31, batted .254 in 20 games with the Orioles. He has already passed through waivers, but can refuse the assignment to Norfolk and become a free agent. He has three days to make that decision.

Eveland designated, Socolovich promoted

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