By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
8:51 PM EDT, August 29, 2013
BOWIE -- Facing hitters for the first time in more than a month, Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings Thursday night in his first minor league rehabilitation start for Double-A Bowie.
Hammel allowed three hits against the Binghamton Mets -- two of which came in a 20-pitch first inning before escapaing a bases-loaded jam -- and he struck out three and walked none. He also hit two batters.
The Orioles' Opening Day starter, who has been on the disabled list with a right forearm strain since July 29, threw 47 pitches (32 strikes). He was scheduled to throw between 45 and 50 pitches.
“Really what I wanted to feel tonight was the slider,” Hammel said. “I had much better feel for the slider, so that will be a big difference-maker when I’m back. Other than that, I did pretty well. A lot of ground balls ... and I got the pitches in and I got the work in."
Hammel was able to throw all of his pitches for strikes, including a fastball that sat at 93-94 mph on the liberal radar gun at Prince George’s Stadium and peaked at 96.
“Much better feel for everything, the extension, being able to finish my breaking balls, even the curveball was better,” Hammel said. “I was able to finish it in the dirt. I’m pretty happy with the first one.”
After starting the season 7-2, Hammel is winless in his past 10 big league starts, and the Orioles were 1-9 in those games. Hammel said the injury definitely affected his pitching.
“One-hundred percent,” he said. “I’m not a guy who makes excuses, but it is what it is. When you can’t actually finish and get extension on your pitches, you’re going to leave balls up and you’re going to get hit. I tried to battle through it and I still think we had chances to win the games I was pitching in, but I didn’t feel like myself.”
Hammel said he believes he will make at least one more minor league rehab appearance, but he said he wasn’t sure where that will be. If he remains on a starter’s schedule, his next likely stop will be Class-A Aberdeen.
The Orioles could, however, have a more immediate need for Hammel in the bullpen.
“I’m game for anything. Obviously, I’m more comfortable as a starter and I think I’d be more help as a starter, but it’s the playoffs,” Hammel said. “All hands on deck. Everybody should be ready to go no matter what. September is a month where adrenaline carries you through. We’re right there again and that’s where we want to be.”
Hammel loaded the bases in the first inning Thursday despite a pair of hits that likely would have been outs at the major league level. With runners at the corners and two outs, he hit Binghamton left fielder Cory Vaughn on an inside fastball that got away.
“They were supposed to be fastballs in, and I didn’t quite get on top of them,” Hammel said. “It was just barely missed execution there. I’d rather miss way in than over the plate.”
Hammel retired six of the final eight batters he faced before he was removed after retiring the first two hitters he faced in the third.
“For the first time being on the mound, it doesn’t matter what league you’re in, it takes a little bit to get settled in,” Hammel said. “I hadn’t seen a hitter in a month. It felt pretty good to have a catcher behind the plate and get a hitter and umpire out there and see everything and still be able to execute.”
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