DETROIT -- The Orioles optioned first baseman Joe Mahoney to Triple-A Norfolk before Saturday's game to make room for left-hander Zach Britton, who was called up from Norfolk to start the game. The move left the Orioles with 13 pitchers and an eight-man bullpen.

"[We] want to keep the pitching, want to make sure we have the covered," manager Buck Showalter said before the game. "Hope we don't need somebody to play first base tonight."

Right-hander Steve Johnson (1-0, 2.70), who had been the club's other option to start Saturday, remained on the roster as a reliever. Johnson pitched two innings in relief on Thursday, his first game action in seven days.

"I just don't think it's fair to Steve to [send him to Norfolk] as good as a year as he's having, and [he has] the potential to help us as the year goes on, potentially as a starter," Showalter said. "I don't want to do anything that sets him back, either. It also keeps our depth. And [it] keeps our ability to keep our bullpen intact."

Mahoney entered Friday night's game in the fifth inning after Reynolds was ejected. He went 0-for-1 and is hitless in four major league at bats through two games. He had a .263/.317/.390 line at Norfolk. He was called up Thursday to replace Wilson Betemit, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right wrist injury.

Mahoney said he hopes to rejoin the major league club when rosters expand in September.

"They've got to do what they gotta do," Mahoney said. "Buck explained it to me, that they need the extra pitcher right now. It's just the business of it. Hopefully, I'll be back up here soon in a few weeks and get some playing time hopefully."

Hammel's next step

Right-hander Jason Hammel (right knee surgery) threw his third bullpen session from a full mound on Saturday, throwing just under 40 pitches.

"That's probably the best he's felt," Showalter said.

Showalter said it was the best bullpen Hammel has thrown during is recovery. He will throw again on Monday, and if that goes well, the next step would be Hammel taking some fielding practice. That would be a significant test, because it would gauge Hammel's comfort coming off the mound, fielding bunts and covering first base.

"It would be something where we would be more comfortable placing a [return] date on if he gets through that well," Showalter said. "The biggest thing is him getting the ball and not thinking about it."

Around the horn

Right-hander Chris Tillman received a $750 fine from the commissioner's office for hitting Royals catcher Salvador Perez with a pitch Aug. 11. Tillman hit Perez with a 2-0 fastball in the sixth inning after Perez homered off him earlier in the game. … First-round pick Kevin Gausman allowed four runs — all on a pair of homers — on four hits over three innings with one strikeout and one walk in his first start at High-A Frederick on Saturday. He threw 42 pitches, 29 of them for strikes. … Right-hander Zach Petersime started Saturday's game for Triple-A Norfolk — Britton was originally scheduled to pitch — becoming the 25th Tides starting pitcher this season, which ties an International League record.

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