Orioles going Gonzalez on Friday

Miguel Gonzalez finally gets back on the mound Friday night when the Orioles begin a three-game series at Fenway Park.

Gonzalez, being eased through the final month of the regular season, held the Rays to two runs in six innings in his Sept. 12 start at Camden Yards. He's faced the Red Sox twice, including once in relief, and allowed three runs and eight hits in 10 innings.

Manager Buck Showalter couldn't confirm Gonzalez as Friday's starter until making sure the right-hander wasn't needed in relief in Seattle. Desperate times.

Gonzalez actually has pitched better on the road, posting a 3.06 ERA and 1.08 WHIP and holding opponents to a .219 average. He's got a 4.41 ERA and 1.59 WHIP at home, and opponents are batting .285.

Right-handers are hitting .231 against Gonzalez, compared to .256 by left-handers.

miguel-gonzalez-white-front-windup-sidebar.jpgI shared this one a few days ago: Gonzalez has registered a 4.84 ERA in eight starts on regular rest. He threw seven scoreless innings with two hits allowed in his only start on five days rest, and he has a 2.41 ERA in three starts with six days or more of rest.

I expect to walk into the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park on Friday and see Jim Thome sitting at his locker. Or at least see his clothes hanging in his locker. He may be out of the room.

Thome has been playing in the instructional league, and the Orioles intend to activate him from the disabled list before the series opener. Whether he's in the lineup is another matter entirely.

The Red Sox are starting left-hander Jon Lester, which could keep Endy Chavez in right field and make Lew Ford the designated hitter. But Thome, who hasn't faced major league pitching since July 27, is 4-for-7 with a double against Lester.

Small sample size.

Lester is 14-0 with a 2.49 ERA against the Orioles - bigger sample size - and it wouldn't hurt to shake things up a little.

Robert Andino is 6-for-16 against Lester. He has a stranglehold on second base, so there's no reason to think he'll be on the bench. J.J. Hardy is 5-for-11 with a double, triple and home run. Matt Wieters is 11-for-31 with two doubles and, yes, a triple.

Nate McLouth must stay in left field, whether he's leading off or batting third. McLouth has eight hits in his last 16 at-bats and 15 hits over his last nine games.

Thome's return won't impact McLouth, but Chavez could get more bench time with Chris Davis moving back to right field. Chavez made a sensational catch in the right-field corner last night - plus-defense is always welcome - and he's a .348/.362/.413 hitter in 46 career at-bats against the Red Sox.

Chris Tillman leaves the comfort of Seattle hitters this weekend for the unfriendly confines of Fenway Park. He's pitched there once and didn't allow a run in five innings, though he surrendered five hits and walked three batters.

Tillman is 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA in three career starts against the Red Sox, with seven runs and 16 hits allowed, and seven walks, in 11 innings.

For everyone asking about Jason Hammel, the Orioles are taking it slow with him for obvious reasons. Perhaps a clearer picture will emerge on Friday, such as a possible bullpen session, flat-ground game of catch, lobster rolls for lunch, etc.

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