The Orioles bullpen — and perhaps the club's postseason chances — was dealt a big blow Thursday when manager Buck Showalter announced that submarining set-up man Darren O'Day will not travel to Toronto with the team because of lingering soreness in his right index and middle fingers.
O'Day is 5-3 with a team-leading 2.28 ERA and ranks second on the club in appearances with 63. He's been in just two games this month, however, last pitching two innings Saturday. He's been dealing with the condition off and on for the past week or two, Showalter said.
"There have been days when he didn't have any problem at all," Showalter said. "And it has kind of gotten more frequent. And closer, and I don't like it."
O'Day has gone through a battery of medical examinations, including a nerve conduction test, and no cause has been determined. He was scheduled for another test Thursday evening and was unavailable for comment.
"This is the last [test] they even know of today," Showalter said. "There's really three things [it could be]. It's structural, blood vessel related/artery [or] it's nerve. We're just trying to identify which one of those is creating the issue. I've become an expert on it, believe me. I get drilled on it every day."
The team is considering sending O'Day to Sarasota, Fla., to see hand surgeon-specialist Brian Schofield, who has worked with Nick Markakis, Steve Pearce and other Orioles in the past year.
The pain has increased to the point that O'Day was simply playing catch and couldn't grip a ball properly because of the discomfort. The Orioles are hoping that the 30-year-old O'Day, who is signed through next season with a team option for 2015, can join them at some point on their road trip.
But it is also possible that he could be done for this season. That would create a huge void in the team's bullpen, one that Showalter said would need to be filled by someone already in the bullpen.
"I present it as something that opens up an opportunity for somebody else to present themselves well," Showalter said. "That's the way [it was] last year and a lot of times this year. We found some orchids while searching for roses [after] having a rose missing. And Darren's been that."
Betemit gets DH start
Designated hitter Wilson Betemit was in the Orioles' starting lineup Thursday for the first time this month. He has had just one at-bat in September and is hitless in nine plate appearances since being activated from the disabled list Aug. 29.
"I am ready. I am ready to swing," said Betemit, who tore a right knee ligament in March. "I know my situation. Only nine guys can start every day, and most of our guys play every day."
Because of the season-long injury, Betemit hasn't had many opportunities to play after batting .261 with 12 home runs in 2012.
"There is so much unknown about where Wilson really is, but you get a guy who you had some success off of and you get a good feel of how he is," Showalter said. "I'm curious to see how he does."
Showalter said Betemit, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, has handled the limited playing time well. The switch-hitter likely will play winter ball to prove he is healthy.
"Wilson is a good man," Showalter said. "Someone, maybe us, has got a chance to get a solid guy next year when he has all this behind him."
Around the horn
Right-hander Bud Norris, scratched from Friday's start because of soreness in his right elbow, could resuming throwing by Sunday. He could also be held out longer if the soreness continues. … Right-hander Jason Hammel's start Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays will be his first start since July 28. … With his next home run, first baseman Chris Davis will become the third player in major league history to hit 50 homers and 40 doubles in a season, joining Babe Ruth and Albert Belle. ... Danny Valencia continued his hot streak with a career-high-tying four hits Wednesday. He entered Thursday 22-for-39 (.564) in his past 11 games, including nine multi-hit games. … Heading into Thursday, the Orioles were 11-for-57 (.193) with runners in scoring position during the first seven games of the homestand.