Chris Ray isn't sure whether he'll pitch for the Orioles this season. He acknowledges that his command is not where it needs to be, and he still hasn't regained the feel of his secondary pitches, both understandable considering that the former closer hasn't pitched in a major league game since July 2007. But the most important thing is that Ray has experienced no problems with his surgically repaired right elbow.
"I wish my whole body felt like my elbow," said Ray, who had ligament-reconstruction surgery Aug. 16 of last year. "It hasn't felt this good since Little League."
In between rehabilitation outings, Ray returned to the Orioles' clubhouse yesterday to play catch and work out with his teammates. He is scheduled to throw an inning today for Single-A Delmarva, an inning for Double-A Bowie on Tuesday and Thursday and then he'll join Single-A Aberdeen later this week. The Orioles haven't decided yet whether he'll join the big league club.
"I could go out there, but I'm not sure I would get the results," said Ray, who has made five rehab appearances, allowing two earned runs in five innings. "The first time I went out there in Frederick, I had a little nerves when I went out there. It's definitely good to get these innings in."
Orioles manager Dave Trembley has asked Ray, who has dropped 20 pounds during the rehab process, to join the club in between outings.
"I think it's just great that he's here," Trembley said. "For me, this is a tremendous accomplishment. This guy's work ethic has been off the charts. I want to see him in the clubhouse, and I want him to be part of the club. There's a place on this team for him next year. He'll be pitching in some role at the end of games next year.
With George Sherrill having proved he can handle the closer's role and Jim Johnson also part of the discussion, the Orioles will have a decision to make next season on who will be their primary closer.
"It's way too early," Ray said. "Right now, I'm just getting myself ready to play at the big league level. Whether it be the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth inning - it doesn't really matter at this point."
The need for speed
Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz looked up at the stadium radar readings during Daniel Cabrera's start against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday and wondered the same thing as everybody else.
Cabrera's fastball was consistently clocked at 90 and 91 mph and topped out at 93. That's down significantly from Cabrera's normal velocity for most of his career.
"Obviously anytime velocity is down, it's a concern, especially when you're used to looking at a power pitcher," Kranitz said. "Daniel is a power guy. When you start to see that, you start to say, 'Is he OK?' But he said that he feels good, he feels strong."
Cabrera, who will start this afternoon's series finale against the New York Yankees, has given up six runs or more in four of his seven outings since the All-Star break. One theory about his dip in velocity is that Cabrera, who is among the American League leaders in walks, hit batsmen and wild pitches, might be taking a lot off his fastball to try to combat his control issues.
"Anything is possible, and believe me, we've talked about a lot of those things," Kranitz said. "Obviously a guy that is throwing the ball with conviction and feels confident in what they're doing, they get more out of what they're doing."
Albers a future starter?
Matt Albers, who hasn't pitched since June 25 because of a tear in the labrum of his right shoulder, is on the 60-day disabled list and will not pitch for the Orioles again this season. When he returns to the team next year, Trembley said he will recommend that Albers be used as a starter.
"I think it would suit him better to know when he's going to pitch, to get him more on a routine of what he does in between starts," Trembley said.
In other injury news, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones took batting practice before last night's game for the first time since fracturing a bone in his left foot.
On the pitching front, Brian Burres was scratched from his start at Triple-A Norfolk last night and remains on track to start for the Orioles against the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.
Outfield assists for Nick Markakis, who threw out Jason Giambi trying to stretch a single to right Friday night