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Guthrie still moving toward return to rotation

Jeremy Guthrie, the only Oriole who has managed to stay in the rotation from Opening Day until now, will throw a bullpen session Sunday and if all goes well, he'll face the Minnesota Twins on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Guthrie, who is 5-16 with a 4.55 ERA and has thrown 164 innings this season, hasn't pitched since Aug.13 because of right shoulder stiffness.

"I'm probably going to throw my bullpen tomorrow. That would put me on pace to start Tuesday or Wednesday this week, depending on what works best for the rotation,' Guthrie said. "There are a lot of X-factors with double headers and everything else. I'd say that Tuesday and Wednesday are the most likely days."

Guthrie's uncertain status has prevented manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair from setting the rotation for the rest of the road trip. Brian Matusz will start Sunday's series finale here, and then Zach Britton will be activated from the disabled list in time to start Monday's series opener in Minnesota. Alfredo Simon would be a prime candidate to start Tuesday if Guthrie is unavailable, but Showalter wasn't ready to commit to anything beyond Monday.

"Until he actually gets a ball in his hand, we won't really know," Showalter said of Guthrie. "I feel pretty confident he will slot out somewhere, but not really sure yet. But until we get arms around where that's going to be, it's hard to go much beyond Monday. But we have people able to pitch."

Berken hoping for best

Reliever Jason Berken had Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery in 2004 and he's pretty confident that he won't need it again. However, Berken admitted that he is concerned that the soreness and pain in his right elbow has not subsided.

"I guess the concern level is that with treatment and some rest, it really hasn't gotten any better," Berken said. "I don't think it's a Tommy John issue. That's how I feel right now. There has been some discomfort in there, some soreness that hasn't gotten better or gone away. I had a pretty good chunk of time off from pitching. I even took some days off from throwing and I've been getting treatment every day, taking anti-inflammatories, and they really haven't seemed to make any progress on it. Any time you have some discomfort in that area it's somewhat concerning. But at this point, I don't think it's a surgical thing or anything like that."

Berken was planning on seeing Los Angeles Angels team orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum Saturday. Orioles team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens is also expected in town later Saturday, and Berken will consult with him Sunday.

Johnson remains candidate for rotation spot

For nearly the last month, Orioles right-hander Jim Johnson has gone out on the field long before game time, often with strength and conditioning coach Joe Hogarty, and performed a variety of sprints and other runs. The purpose is to build his stamina and conditioning up for a potential move from the bullpen to the rotation.

The Orioles want to get a look at Johnson as a starter. However with so many injuries to their pitching staff, it's been hard for them to set that plan in motion before the end of this season.

Showalter was planning on speaking to Johnson during batting practice and he acknowledged that one of the topics would be Johnson's potential move to the rotation.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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