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BALTIMORE - Jason Hammel has been the Baltimore Orioles' best starting pitcher and now it's looking like his next turn could be skipped.

Hammel, who was originally scheduled to pitch today, will at least have that start pushed back because of right knee soreness, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said Wednesday.

Hammel has been experiencing the problem for two or three starts.

"But it's managed itself and gone away. We're trying to be real cautious with it," Showalter said. "I think we've got a good feel for what we're dealing with. He feels a little better each day."

Despite the soreness, Hammel has continued to excel his first season with the club. The 6-foot-6 right-hander is 4-1 with a rotation-best 2.09 ERA through six starts. He has a 1.83 ERA over his last three games.

Instead of Hammel pitching today, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who was originally scheduled to start Wednesday, is slated to handle Game 1 of the doubleheader and right-hander Tommy Hunter will be called up from Class AAA Norfolk to start the second game.

A corresponding roster move will be announced between games. Hunter was demoted Monday, and is permitted to return to the majors in fewer than the required 10 days if someone is placed on the disabled list. Outfielder Endy Chavez, who is dealing with a strained intercostal muscle in his ribcage, could be the one headed to the DL.

Showalter didn't indicate whether Hammel could be ready to pitch Friday, but if he can't go, possibilities for the series opener against Tampa Bay are left-hander Dana Eveland, right-hander Chris Tillman and righty Brad Bergesen.

Eveland is the most likely starter. He has gone 3-2 with a 2.21 ERA in six starts with the Tides after being acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers at the winter meetings.

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