Thome expected to miss three to four weeks (Thome says longer)

Orioles designated hitter Jim Thome is at Camden Yards today, but he's no closer to getting back into the lineup.

Manager Buck Showalter told reporters that Thome is expected to miss three to four weeks because of a herniated disc in his neck. The epidural injection from last week apparently has improved Thome's condition, but not enough that he'll make an early return.

Thome received the epidural in California. Two specialists will examine him in Baltimore, and Thome will decide whether to stay here, return home or report to the minor league facility in Sarasota.

The good news is the herniated disc is "fresh," as opposed to a pre-existing injury.

At this point, the Orioles are viewing Thome and pitcher Jason Hammel as September "call-ups".

Hammel apparently has increased the distance on his flat-ground throwing to 120 feet, and the Orioles still expect him to throw off a mound in 1 1/2 weeks.

Showalter views Nick Johnson as a "long-shot" to be activated from the 60-day disabled list in September. Johnson's wrist isn't getting any better.

Reliever Stu Pomeranz suffered another setback today. He wasn't able to throw in Sarasota, Fla., because of discomfort in his leg related to a back injury.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette spent the last few days at Triple-A Norfolk. He's back at Camden Yards today.

Update: Thome told reporters that he won't do anything for 30 days, including the four days that have passed since he received the epidural, so a Sept. 1 return no longer seems reasonable.

Thome said he won't perform any baseball-related activities during that period, but he hopes that it won't take long to get ready once he's cleared to swing a bat.

"Obviously, I can continue to do my exercises in the sense of my lower back, but baseball activities, nothing for about 30 days and then after that, hopefully we'll get back as quick as we can," he said.

Thome doesn't have a timetable for his return to the lineup.

"The timing is bad, yes, but hopefully we can get this over as quickly as possible and be positive about it," he said.

Thome also said he isn't sure whether he'll try to play next season, but he indicated that the injury could make it more probable.

Check Steve Melewski's blog on MASNsports.com for more quotes from Thome.

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