McLouth, Hoes and who throws? (and 2013 schedule note)

I'm 100 percent certain that Nate McLouth will bat leadoff again tonight. The Rays are starting a right-hander, Alex Cobb, and it didn't matter yesterday that they sent left-hander Matt Moore to the mound.

McLouth had two hits last night and is 2-for-7 with two walks, three runs scored and two stolen bases in two games since replacing Nick Markakis atop the order.

Does this mean McLouth will have exclusive rights to the leadoff duties?

"We're going to take a look at every pitcher," said manager Buck Showalter. "Nate's capable of it. If you look at his career numbers, it's not a washout against left-handed pitching. And he'll take a walk and run the bases. He presents that option if we want to do. If he takes off with it, we might run with it."

LJ Hoes was a surprise addition to the roster yesterday. We knew about Endy Chavez, but Hoes came out of left field, so to speak.

"We think LJ at some point has a chance to impact us and help us," Showalter said. "It's more than just letting him get his feet on the ground and taking a look at him in this environment. That also helps as you go forward. He's going to go on the (40-man) roster anyway as soon as the season is over.

"I'm not going through it with rose-colored glasses. I understand, talking to R.J. (Ron Johnson) and Griff (Mike Griffin) and the guys, about what guys can do. Every player we have and every manager, every coach, has faults and strengths. He deserved to come up here in the capacity that we needed.

"You can't ask for a greater time for him to participate in. It will be good. I want him to have the same thing (Derek) Jeter had when he came up, to think that's where the Orioles are supposed to be in September every year. This is a guy who's grown up in this neighborhood, so he understands how this is something that he wants to be a part of."

Hammel white throwing day sidebar.jpgThe Orioles wanted no part of another injury to their rotation, but they got one last night, and it sounded pretty bad. Jason Hammel didn't leave the game as a precaution. Not when he described the sharp pain in his knee and how it was the exact same spot that led to his July surgery. He looked and sounded concerned.

Hammel thought the surgery corrected the problem. He also looked and sounded confused.

The best-case scenario involves scar tissue. Hammel was told that it could cause similar discomfort. And the knee didn't swell up last night, which brought a little bit of encouragement.

You've already figured out the worst-case scenario.

The Orioles still haven't named a starter for Thursday, and now they have no idea whether Hammel can take his next turn. Where's Joel Pineiro when you need him?

The assumption is that Chris Tillman or Wei-Yin Chen will start Thursday, with the other one going on Friday. That would leave Joe Saunders to pitch on six days rest.

The off day on Monday allows Showalter to really get creative with the rotation, and the extra starters in the bullpen - including Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter and Steve Johnson - allow him to cover for Hammel if the right-hander needs to be skipped. He'd just prefer not to lose Hammel for the rest of the season.

That possibility already had crept into Hammel's head as he stood at his locker last night and took questions from reporters. He tried to push it aside, but it wasn't budging.

Team Resilient will take the field again tonight as if nothing is wrong. It could use a nice, long, drama-free outing from Miguel Gonzalez, who's 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his last two home starts.

It could use a night when the final score isn't secondary to the latest health crisis.

NOTE: Teams are releasing their 2013 schedules, and as expected, the Orioles open next season at Tropicana Field. They play the Rays April 2-4 before heading to Camden Yards to face the Twins.

The Orioles are expected to release their schedule later today. The Rays' became public earlier, which confirmed their dates against the Orioles.

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