BOSTON – Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel will start Friday’s series opener in Tampa Bay, filling in for right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who will miss his next turn in the rotation with a lingering right groin strain, manager Buck Showalter announced Tuesday.
But with nagging injuries to Gonzalez and right-hander Bud Norris, the Orioles’ starting rotation is in flux for their pivotal four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Gonzalez, who left Sunday’s game in Toronto in the sixth inning after tweaking his groin, received treatment on the Orioles’ off day Monday and he played catch on Tuesday. Gonzalez said he hoped to try throwing a bullpen session on Thursday, but said “that’s kind of up in the air.”
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“He’s got some soreness there like we thought he would,” Showalter said.
Norris, who missed his last turn in the rotation on Friday with elbow tightness, threw a bullpen session before Tuesday’s game in Boston. If he recovers well from that, he could start Saturday’s game against the Rays. That decision will be made on Thursday, Showalter said.
If Norris isn’t ready, Showalter said there are five or six other options to start Saturday. Those options could include starters currently working out of the bullpen – Kevin Gausman, Josh Stinson, Steve Johnson or T.J. McFarland — but Showalter also said left-handers Zach Britton and Tsuyoshi Wada, currently working out at the team’s spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla., could be recalled to start. Britton and Wada are scheduled to split innings in a simulated game Wednesday in Sarasota.
Regardless, Showalter said that decision won’t affect how he uses the bullpen in Boston.
“It doesn’t,” Showalter said. “We’re going to grind the heck out of one game, see where we are standing and if we need to get another pitcher, they’re sitting down there in Sarasota ready to go. I’m not managing like you normally do with the bullpen.”
Hammel, who filled in for Norris Friday in Toronto, allowed three runs over five innings against the Blue Jays, allowing homers to Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus. He was held to an innings limit in that game since it was his first start since late July after missing five weeks with a forearm strain that affected the delivery of his breaking ball.
O’Day could be on his way on Wednesday
Right-hander reliever Darren O’Day threw off the mound Tuesday morning in Sarasota for the first time since he was shut down Thursday with numbness and tingling in his fingers.
O’Day threw all his pitches and felt some lingering soreness from the two injections he received in the wrist and hand area to reduce nerve inflammation.
He will be re-evaluated on Wednesday morning, and if all goes well, O’Day could be on a plane to Boston and available for Wednesday night’s game at Fenway Park.
“He seems to be making progress,” Showalter said. “He’s not going to waste any bullets down there. We’ll talk in the morning when he gets out to the complex.”
O’Day, leads the team with a 2.28 ERA as one of the club’s top late-inning relievers , has pitched just twice since August 28.
Pearce comes off DL
The club reinstated outfielder Steve Pearce from the disabled list before Tuesday’s game.
Pearce, who landed on the disabled list in June with tendinitis in both wrists, returned to the DL on August 31. He went to Sarasota, where he received an injection to reduce inflammation on the wrist.
Pearce said the injection made his wrist sore for about five days, but he’s healthy again and eager to contribute down the stretch.
“It’s very exciting,” Pearce said of being back. “It’s hard watching it on TV. I’m glad to be up here with the guys and just feeling the electricity in the dugout, being with your teammates. This is where I want to be.”
The last time Pearce returned from the DL, he limited the number of swings he took in the batting cage — saying he probably worsened the injury by taking extra swings to stay ready for spot starts — but now he said he will take as many swings as he needs to be ready.
“Let it eat,” Pearce said. “I have the offseason to get ready so I’ll do what I can to help the team so I’m going out there to swing.”
Around the horn
Rookie outfielder Henry Urrutia, reinstated from the restricted list on Monday after he was unable to join the team in Toronto because of visa issues, will remain in Sarasota and continue working out there. He could still rejoin the big league club, but he could stay in Sarasota for instructional league and prepare for the upcoming Arizona Fall League. … Showalter said it was especially difficult telling DH Wilson Betemit he was being designated for assignment Monday. Betemit never quite recovered from a right-knee injury that cost him his entire season and became expendable following a 0-for-10 return. “The only thing that made it work in my mind, made me rationalize it a bit because of your relationship with him, is that I don’t think he’s completely where he’s going to be,” Showalter said. “So I think for him to get ready for winter ball, where he can show everybody that he’s back physically, that will be good for him.” … With Sunday’s save, closer Jim Johnson became the fifth pitcher in baseball history to record at least two consecutive seasons of 45 or more saves, joining Craig Kimbrel (three seasons, 2011-’13), Eric Gagne (three seasons, 2002-’04), Francisco Rodriguez (two seasons, 2005-’06) and John Smoltz (two seasons, 2002-’03) … Louisville Slugger announced former Orioles great Cal Ripken, Jr. will be the recipient of this year’s Living Legend Award for contributions to the game on and off the field. … The Orioles announced the winner of their T-shirt design contest to be given away to the first 10,000 fans on Sept. 26. Rockville resident Scott Thompson’s design was selected by fan vote as the winner for his “Orioles Magic Shaving Cream Pie” shirt.