FREDERICK - Wilson Betemit hasn't had the season that he or the Baltimore Orioles were hoping he would back in March.
Betemit was supposed to be the Orioles' designated hitter against right-handed pitching, against which he hit .302 in 2012, and provide the Orioles some offense in the bottom of the order. The 31-year-old may have been able to do that, had he not gotten hurt in the final week of spring training.
Betemit collapsed while running from first to second in a Grapefruit League game March 25, tearing the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and has been slowly working to get back all season.
Betemit got one step closer on Monday night. In his first rehab game with the Class A Frederick Keys, Betemit batted second as the DH, going 1 for 5 with a single in the Keys' 6-3 loss to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans at Harry Grove Stadium.
"It's getting better every day," Betemit said. "This is my sixth game in the year and it's tough. I lost like four months and I have to get it back and get ready. I feel much better."
Betemit joined Frederick on Monday after going 6 for 16 in five games with the Gulf Coast League Orioles. He is scheduled to be back in the Keys' lineup tonight, again as the DH in the No. 2 hole. After that, the plan is for him to join Class AA Bowie when the Baysox return home and eventually come back to the Keys when they are back home.
"Nobody wants to get hurt, but that happens in the game," Betemit said. "The situation I can do nothing about it. I have to wait. Right now I'm here."
Last year, Betemit proved to be a valuable asset to Baltimore with his bat. That is most likely all he will be asked to do if he makes it back to the Orioles, considering he made 13 errors during limited time in the field last year. Betemit, however, said once he joins the Baysox, he will get some playing time at both first and third base.
In his first at-bat in the bottom of the first Monday, Betemit struck out looking.
The next time up, in the bottom of the third, Betemit flew out to center on four pitches, stranding a runner on first. In the bottom of the fifth with runners on first and second, Betemit struck out on five pitches, fouling off a pair.
Betemit singled on the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the seventh with two outs. And in the bottom of the ninth, he grounded out to end the game.
"I think he's a little behind right now just because he's sat out since spring training," Keys manager Ryan Minor said. "But he had competitive at-bats. His last two at-bats were better than his first two, I think. He had a couple swings and misses behind the fastball early, but then he was able to get the barrel to the ball."
While his Frederick teammates were on the field, Betemit walked down to the bullpen area to stretch, take practice cuts, and stay loose.
Although Betemit has never been sidelined as long as he has during this injury, he did miss time last year with a recurring wrist injury and missed playing in the playoffs.
Betemit said it's been frustrating being away from the Orioles, but he's optimistic he can recover and be back to help the team in September, after his rehab assignment, which must be at least 20 days, is over.
"This year is the worst," Betemit said. "We have a great team, great talent. Those guys do their job over there."
Minor said Betemit was one of the first guys to take batting practice and be out on the field prior to Monday's game.
And for now, Minor can use Betemit's rehab stint as a positive influence on his younger Frederick players while the veteran prepares to return to Baltimore.
"For a guy like Wilson, he knows what he needs to do to get ready," Minor said. "These guys get a chance to see what it takes to be a big-leaguer, as far as their approach and their focus to the game."