Patton ready to pitch, Hammel not ready for mound (rotation update)

BOSTON - Troy Patton finally made it back to the Orioles after suffering a sprained ankle that he originally thought would keep him out for only 15 days.

Patton went on the disabled list retroactive to Aug. 13, his career-high 18-game scoreless streak put on hold.

"The swelling didn't go away for a long time," he said. "I've sprained it before and been back within 10 days of the injury, but this was just a bad, bad sprain and it took a long time to even get close to going on the field. They wouldn't let me do anything for a long time."

While Patton was shut down and slowly working his way back in Sarasota, the Orioles continued to make their push for the postseason.

"It's been killing me," he said. "There were all sorts of opportunities whenever I would have been pitching to make an impact in important games. So yeah, it's been killing me. I'm glad to be here and I'm glad to finish up the season and hopefully get some more good appearances in."

Patton couldn't get back on the active roster until he regained his full range of motion, which proved to be the biggest hurdle.

"Just because I have such a violent front side in my mechanics, he said. "I rotate over my front side really violently, so the landing and just getting over my front side took a little while to gain some trust and some faith that I was better in that aspect. That's what took a little while throwing, but once I got on a mound and everything was fine, it was just getting my stuff back.

"It's been about a week that I was probably able to pitch in the big leagues, but Buck (Showalter) is very meticulous, as you all know, and he wanted to make sure I was ready to be part of what's going on."

Patton appeared in three games down in Sarasota and threw around four innings, though it's difficult to pinpoint.

"The (simulated) game that we played, there were a couple situations where I stayed in and we were doing bunt plays and some weird things, so somewhere around four innings," he said. "My velocity was back to where it was. Last time out, I was throwing everything down in the zone with life, so things looked good."

Patton used to be the only left-hander in the bullpen, but not anymore.

"Now I'm one of four," he said. "I was just thinking about that. Before it was just me, and now there's three other options. That'll be strange when I'm not going to be pitching all the other times I was before. It'll be interesting to see when I'm used. But I'm just happy to be here. It doesn't matter."

The bullpen will be down to three left-handers if Randy Wolf starts Saturday. Chris Tillman is scheduled to start Sunday.

Meanwhile, Jason Hammel has been playing catch every other day and notices gradual improvement in his right knee, but he's not ready to get back on a mound and he's not going to rush it again.

"Basically, it's a day-to-day process right now," he said. "Nothing more than just waiting and seeing. It's been showing steady improvement. Just minimal, I guess. It's moving slow. It probably would have been smart to wait another week (after the surgery) before I started doing the rehab and stuff like that. I don't want to say I rushed it, but it probably would have helped. I probably wouldn't have had a setback, in hindsight. But hindsight's 20-20, so it's easy to say those things.

"Right now, we're just going to be really cautious with it. It's starting to feel really good, but I'm not going to get on a mound and throw another pitch until it feels normal. I'm not going to risk further injury."

Hammel, who played catch again today, remains hopeful that he'll pitch again in 2012.

"I'm not throwing any of that out the window," he said. "This is too much fun to miss. I don't want to consider my season over at all yet, so I'm doing everything I can to come back and make sure it's strong and that I can actually be useful without feeling strong going out there and all of a sudden, in the second inning, the bullpen's on the line again. It's not worth that risk.

"It's going to be, I'm able to throw a pitch without any question in the back of my mind that there's going to be a sharp pain. I'm not going to get back on the mound until it feels like I can do what I was able to do before then."

Hammel said the knee felt great until he threw a pitch in his Sept. 11 start against the Rays.

"The (Sept. 6) game against New York, I was very optimistic that we were through it," he said. "I remember saying that I still felt like I could get more strength, but as for any injury or any soreness or sharp pain, I didn't feel any of that, so it was a surprise when it happened again."

Rotation update: Randy Wolf will start Saturday if he's not needed in relief tonight. Wei-Yin Chen will start one game of Monday's doubleheader against Toronto at Camden Yards, while Steve Johnson is a candidate to start the other game.

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