As the Orioles continue to tinker with their bullpen, their closer is ready to take the ball again.
It just won't happen in a major league game.
Chris Ray has been cleared to begin a throwing program at the minor league complex in Sarasota, Fla. He'll report to the Gulf Coast League team tomorrow and likely stay for three weeks, depending on how his right elbow responds.
Ray hasn't thrown since going on the disabled list July 25. He's been receiving heat and ice treatments and performing exercises designed to strengthen the muscles around his elbow.
"We were just giving it some time for a little bit of the inflammation to calm down and get ready to get back out there," he said.
Ray is expected to rejoin the Orioles next month after going on a rehabilitation assignment, accumulating innings with the Gulf Coast team or a local affiliate.
"I feel good," he said. "Of course, you never know until you get out there and throw, but I'm optimistic that I'll be able to come back at the end of the season."
Manager Dave Trembley said Ray is "turning the page."
"The notes that I have on my sheet are, after those three weeks [in Sarasota], he'll be evaluated and we'll see where he's at," Trembley said. " ... He'll tell us, based on his comfort level. I would think we would take the conservative road. Unless he's 100 percent, why take a chance?"
No more outfield for Gibbons
Trembley also isn't taking any chances with Jay Gibbons, who will undergo surgery Tuesday to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
Gibbons' ability to throw from the outfield is hindered by the injury, and he's been restricted to serving as the designated hitter. Gibbons didn't start yesterday because he was 0-for-11 lifetime against Boston Red Sox starter Josh Beckett.
Despite the pain in his shoulder, Gibbons said he could play left field, but Trembley declined the offer.
"My stance on it was, with all due respect, the advice I got from the medical people was that if he would have gone out there and played and dived for a ball or threw, he could have torn the labrum much worse than what it already was," Trembley said.
As a further precaution, Trembley hasn't allowed Gibbons to take infield before games.
"I didn't want him to blow out his arm. I didn't want to be the guy that ended his career," Trembley said.
Gibbons had a magnetic resonance imaging and an arthrogram, where dye was injected into his elbow to better identify problems, during Monday's break in the schedule. Trembley asked him the next day whether he could replace Jay Payton in left field, but Gibbons said his arm was too sore from the injection.
"I said, 'Don't worry about it.' And right then and there, I made a decision that I wasn't going to play him in the outfield anymore," Trembley said.
The Orioles likely will put Gibbons on the 60-day DL. Because he's having the surgery this early, he's expected to be ready for spring training.
The Orioles sold out yesterday's game (their sixth sellout of the season) and have drawn 98,235 for the first two games of the Red Sox series. With only scattered single seats and standing room available for today's series finale, the Orioles said this will be the best-attended three-game series in Camden Yards history.
The good attendance news was mitigated somewhat by the fact that thousands of fans at the ballpark were wearing red.
Beckett said the Red Sox seem to draw lots of fans not only in Baltimore but other cities in the division, with the exception of New York. "It's hard to beat Tampa Bay. It seems like it's about 50-1. I don't know where they [Red Sox fans] get all those tickets."
The Boston fans' presence seemed even more pronounced than usual yesterday. During the crowd's rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," it seemed more people than not yelled, "root, root, root for the Red Sox."
Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka had no comment on the throng of Red Sox fans.