Thome talks about returning to the Orioles

BOSTON - Jason Hammel threw off the front slope of the mound today. His knee responded favorably.

Pitching coach Rick Adair is examining ways to adjust Hammel's delivery and take some of the load off his right knee.

"We're obviously not going to pitch him if he's still feeling discomfort," said manager Buck Showalter.

That's pretty much it for Hammel updates today.

Why Randy Wolf on Saturday? He's 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA in six career starts against the Red Sox, and 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA in four career starts at Fenway Park.

Zach Britton can be used out of the bullpen for now.

LJ Hoes is expected to be named the Orioles' minor league Player of the Year on Tuesday. It's a pretty safe bet that Dylan Bundy will be chosen as their minor league Pitcher of the Year.

Bundy remains available in relief, and he could throw a light bullpen session later tonight if he doesn't get into the game.

"He's available everyday out of the bullpen for us," Showalter said. "He's an option. We've only got a couple guys we wouldn't use tonight."

Bundy isn't a candidate to start on Monday. He may not get a start with the Orioles this year. He's an extra arm in the bullpen.

"He came here because we were short on long relief in our bullpen in Seattle," Showalter said. "We have people in front of him."

Wilson Betemit flew to Baltimore last night to have his right wrist examined again. He received a cortisone injection.

"It doesn't look very promising, but we'll see if the shot does something we don't expect," Showalter said.

Jim Thome took batting practice this afternoon and declared himself ready to pinch hit tonight and return to the lineup as soon as Showalter writes his name in it.

"We'll see what tomorrow brings," Showalter said.

"I thought about starting him today against (Jon) Lester, but with the travel... He's sore in the right places. The back hasn't been an issue at all. He's been running the bases and doing a lot of things the last few days, and it's good to see that he's been able to do it. He hit a home run yesterday (in instructional league) and had a couple hits."

thome o's white smile sidebar.jpg"Everything's been great," Thome said. "It's been, I don't want to say a long process, a process where we stuck to the plan, and everything seemed to go according to what we designed and laid out while I was down in Sarasota. The next step here is to try and help with what these guys have been doing. It's been great to watch at the other end."

Thome's patience has been tested, to say the least.

"That's one thing that I keep telling myself," he said. "It's the back end of all this. That could be more important than rushing back at the front end. Again, I have to credit Richie (Bancells), Dave (Walker) down in Sarasota, the rehab guy. We all kind of put a plan together and really stuck with that plan. It's been great.

"This is what I think everybody dreams of, to put yourself in this opportunity to maybe go on to October and experience (it). Even though you've been there, it never gets old. It never gets old. It was a motivational end to get back as quick as I could, to get back up here and help them.

"I think that's always the fun thing, to watch guys experience it all for the first time in that situation. Obviously, we've got a lot more to do here. We've got a lot of focus here for the next week and a half, and if we can stay true to what we've done, hopefully we'll get to that point and experience what you're saying."

Thome said he never doubted that he would play again this season.

"I listen to people," he said. "I listen to what people say that have had history with the injury that I've had. To answer your question, I never doubted at all because I never doubted my work ethic, and to go down and listen to what our plan was, everything comes from you - the desire, the work. You have to want it inside to get back.

"Every day I woke up, I kept telling myself, 'Keep going, keep going.' There is light at the end of the tunnel here. It's been very rewarding to be here with these guys in the position that I am."

Playing in 2013 remains a possibility, but Thome isn't looking that far ahead.

"I don't talk about next year," he said, smiling. "I want to talk about this year. We'll get to that stage when we get there. Next year is next year. We've got too many things ahead of us to worry about next year. There's no guarantee for tomorrow, let alone next year. I don't really focus in on next year."

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