Left-hander Johan Santana threw a bullpen session off a full mound on Thursday for the first time since signing with the Orioles.
That’s another significant step for Santana, the two-time Cy Young Award winner who was signed to a minor league deal and is rehabbing from his second shoulder surgery in three years.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter sounded optimistic that Santana — whom the Orioles originally believed could be an option to help the big league club in June — could pitch in minor league games earlier than anticipated.
“It is a long process, but there’s big hurdles he’s clearing every day,” Showalter said. “I like the fact that he’s doing it and is able to come back on his work day, his start day. [He’s] getting over those hurdles. He hasn’t missed anything yet. You can see in his face how good he feels about it.
“There’s going to be another hurdle when he actually pitches in a game,” Showalter said. “But pitching in a game might be sooner than maybe he was being looked at.”
Santana is currently working on a five-day schedule as if he was in a starting rotation, and his session Thursday included simulating a warmup and getting up and down between innings.
“Right now we want to see how I recover, but also working on all my pitches,” Santana said. “I’m working on everything. We are not trying to change anything. We are throwing all the pitches, today I warmed up and stopped and went back up. And warmed up again. And I felt pretty good.”
Santana said he will throw at least two more full-mound bullpen sessions before he starts to face hitters and work up to live batting practice.
“After that it’s just a matter of time,” Santana said. “We don’t know how long or how many times we are going to do that until we start getting into games and hopefully able to compete.
“Put it this way, I feel good. What that means, time will tell. I feel really good. So does that mean we are going to be on the mound facing hitters soon? I don’t know. But I’m optimistic when it’s time I will be ready and we will carry that through the season, not just one game and one time. I want to do it the rest of the season.
When the team heads north, Santana will remain in Sarasota to continue his rehab until he is ready to join a minor league affiliate. Even though he is signed to a minor league deal, he would make $3 million if he is added to the major league roster.
Showalter noncommittal on roster
While there appear to be few questions left concerning the Orioles Opening Day roster, Showalter said it’s possible the team makes another addition. The club considered a waiver claim on Wednesday, he said, but decided against it.
“It’s every day. We had two or three [discussions] yesterday,” Showalter said. “Guys show up. You got to look at it. Would you like it better? It’s a tough time, this time of year because you’ve been through the spring with everybody and created a fondness for everybody and you hate to just take somebody from another club, but if you’ve got enough information or history with them, and you think its better, you do it.”
The Orioles made no cuts on Thursday and Showalter said the team might not make any more cuts until Saturday, when the team is scheduled to play an exhibition game at Triple-A Norfolk.
Around the horn
The weather report for Saturday’s 3:05 p.m. in Norfolk is calling for rain all day. The Orioles hope to still play, but that game could be canceled unless the forecast changes. … Right-hander Alfredo Aceves’ first of two opt-out dates is Friday. … Even though Manny Machado will continue his rehab in Sarasota, he will join the Orioles in Baltimore on Opening Day to receive his Gold Glove and American League Platinum Glove Award before the game. … As expected, Showalter said Nelson Cruz will start in left field on Opening Day against Boston left-hander Jon Lester so that Showalter can have an additional right-handed bat in the DH spot, which will likely go to either Delmon Young or Steve Pearce.