Who gets the call in September?

Teams can expand their rosters beginning Sept. 1, which is right around the corner, and the Orioles are in a different mindset from previous seasons.

They're thinking like playoff contenders.

Well, when they actually think about it.

Showalter Orange Arms Folded tall.jpg"Thought about it? Not that much, to be honest with you," manager Buck Showalter said last week. "Trying to do the things for the next two weeks that allows September to mean something here. But there will be a time and a place for that.

"The good thing is a lot of the guys who are down there that we might call up, we've had previous knowledge and experience of. It's really not anybody down there that I can think of that we don't know much about.

"I'm sure the last week of August, we'll be looking at it. And if we're able to stay in contention for a playoff spot, I think the way we'll look at September will be a little different than last year."

Before making out your list of desired call-ups, keep in mind that every player must be on the 40-man roster. If they aren't, the Orioles have to create room for them. It complicates the process.

They always add an extra catcher, and Luis Exposito is on the 40-man, which gives him an edge over Ronny Paulino.

The Orioles have discussed outfielder LJ Hoes, who would get my vote for the organization's minor league Player of the Year. They would need to put him on the 40-man, and he's earned an opportunity.

If Xavier Avery can do it at age 22, so can Hoes.

Before last night, Hoes had reached base safely in 20 of his last 21 games at Triple-A Norfolk, with 12 multi-hit games in that span. He had reached safely in 47 of his last 95 trips to the plate.

Hoes went 1-for-6 with two RBIs last night in the Tides' 6-3 11-inning victory over Gwinnett.

"LJ, I hear people talking about him a lot," Showalter said. "He's in a good place."

Avery is on the 40-man and would be an easy call-up. The same is true of infielder Steve Tolleson, one of Showalter's favorites.

Showalter wants another left-hander in the bullpen, and Troy Patton isn't expected to come off the disabled list when eligible Aug. 27. The Orioles could select reliever Zach Phillips' contract, but again, they would have to create room on the 40-man. The same holds for Dana Eveland.

Brian Matusz is on the 40-man and he's being groomed as a reliever, but he doesn't appear ready to return after two appearances. The experiment could run a little longer, perhaps into early September. It all depends on how he's throwing.

"We'd like to have at least one more left-hander in September," Showalter said.

Right-handers Jake Arrieta and Jason Berken are right-handed possibilities. There's no way to know what the rotation is going to look like and how it's going to impact Arrieta.

Steve Johnson should return in September if he's optioned later this month, which is a possibility when the Orioles add a fourth bench player. The poor guy is always day to day, depending on whether he's used in long relief, but he's proven to be valuable in a spot start and coming out of the bullpen.

The Orioles will get back starter Jason Hammel and infielder Wilson Betemit, and designated hitter Jim Thome is heading to Sarasota today or tomorrow, with his return date expected to move up. So much for being shut down for 30 days.

Players on the disabled list are still eligible for the playoff roster, even if they're activated after Sept. 1.

Endy Chavez accepted an outright assignment to Norfolk with the understanding that he'd likely be brought back next month. I guess he needs to be included on the list - gone but not forgotten.

Showalter doesn't want to crowd the clubhouse with a bunch of September call-ups who aren't going to play, but he's glad to have more choices than in the past.

"If you have good depth in your organization," he said, "it plays in September better."

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