In their continuing pursuit to bolster an upstart club heading into a September pennant push, the Orioles are prepared to sign veteran left-hander Randy Wolf, who was released last week by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Wolf is flying to Baltimore on Wednesday and likely will be added to the roster before Saturday, which will allow the 36-year-old to be eligible to play for the Orioles if they make the postseason.
The signing wasn't official, a team source said, but it almost certainly will happen.
Wolf was 3-10 with a 5.69 ERA for the Brewers this season before being released Aug. 22. He was eligible to sign with any team for the prorated major league minimum.
The Orioles like Wolf's experience — he is 130-117 with a 4.19 ERA in 371 big league games (366 starts) in a 14-season career — and his versatility. He could pitch out of the bullpen or start.
"Both. We are going to take one step at a time and get him here," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I know there was some competition for his services. And he's coveted, and right now he finds us a place that he would be interested in. And I don't have to remind anybody that that hasn't always been the case. So we're going to take a look at it."
Wolf will become the second veteran left-hander that the Orioles have acquired this week. They traded reliever Matt Lindstrom and a player to be named to Arizona for Joe Saunders on Sunday. With rosters expanding this weekend, the Orioles could have at least 10 pitchers who could start games in the final month — and Showalter said the team needs to be as prepared as possible.
"We all know what September brings, it's very hard to acquire players after Sept. . And we are going to continue to try and be proactive," Showalter said. "Knock on wood, you are two line drives off an elbow or shoulder from scuffling for starters again. So you are better off covering your you-know-what as much as you can."
Saunders coming home
Saunders, who was born in Falls Church, Va., went to high school in Springfield and college at Virginia Tech, said it was "pretty surreal," that he's now playing for the team he grew up watching.
"It's always been in the back of my mind, but you've got to look at it from a player's standpoint, you really have no control over it," said Saunders, who has played his entire career for the Los Angeles Angels and Diamondbacks. "I remember coming to the games [as a kid], walking on Eutaw Street, going to the left-field bleachers and trying to catch home runs. So it's pretty surreal that I'm playing for this ballclub."
The 31-year-old Saunders will make his Orioles debut Wednesday, starting against the Chicago White Sox. He said he expects 20 to 25 friends and family members at Camden Yards. He has pitched here three times in his career and is 3-0 with a 4.58 ERA.
Saunders has been in the National League since July 2010, so he said he's not sure whether he'll have to adjust to the American League again.
"We'll find out what kind of adjustment it is. I'm just looking to come over here and contribute," Saunders said. "I've got to talk to Matt [Wieters]. He's got to learn me; I've got to learn him. Everything else is going to take care of itself. They've got a great defense, and a pretty dang good offense, so I'm just going to throw some strikes and see what happens."
Saunders also said he'll have to get himself acclimated to living near the Chesapeake Bay after all those years in Southern California and Arizona.
"Number one, you've got to get used to the humidity. Me and my wife were walking around [Baltimore] this afternoon and we were drenched in sweat," he said. "So we've got to drink a lot of water I think and stay hydrated as best we can. It's going to be a little bit of a transition, but I think we'll be fine."
Thome could swing soon
Orioles designated hitter Jim Thome, on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his neck, did not need another epidural shot because his back discomfort has subsided. He should be able to swing a bat again in two days, Showalter said.
The Orioles are hesitant to put a date on Thome's potential return — or when he can play in a minor league game.
"He'd have to get through three or four segments [of swinging] where there's no recurring problem before we think about sending him on a rehab assignment," Showalter said.
Jason Hammel (knee) continues to have no problems in his incremental rehab, so he will start Saturday for Class-A Frederick. If that goes well, he will throw a side session with the Orioles in Toronto and then be re-evaluated.
He could pitch for the Orioles as early as Sept. 6 against the New York Yankees. Or, Showalter said, if he's not deemed ready, he could pitch for the Double-A Bowie Baysox in the Eastern League playoffs on that day.
Rotation set for next few days