The rest of his rotation? Too soon.
Showalter didn’t name a Game 4 starter, if the series extends that far.
Hammel threw 45-50 pitches in a side session yesterday at full capacity, saying he wasn’t holding back, and he didn’t experience any discomfort in his left knee.
“No concerns with the knee,” Hammel said. “First and foremost, I want to thank Buck for having the confidence in putting me back out there in such an important situation.
“I had another ‘pen in Texas yesterday and that was outstanding. I was able to work on things instead of just trying to get through healthy, so we’re in a good place.
“I’m pretty sure I’m not put on a limit. I wasn’t told anything about that. I’m not going to go out there tentative. If you’re expecting me to just try to feel my way through it, that’s not going to happen. I feel good. I’m ready to go.”
Hammel hasn’t pitched for the Orioles since Sept. 11, but he’s getting the ball in Game 1 of their first Division Series since 1997.
“I’m very comfortable doing it,” he said. “I’ve done it before, pitched in a Division (Series) game before with Colorado, so it’s not new to me. I’ve been able to stay on top of my arm, along with treating the knee, so I’m not worried about it at all. I’m very confident in what I can do, and I’m sure the team is, too.”
Hammel was told of the assignment about 10 minutes before entering the interview room. He didn’t push for it, though he most definitely wanted to get the assignment.
“I think the lobbying was me getting back in shape,” he said. “I didn’t really say much. I wasn’t trying to force their hand or anything. Obviously, I want to be a part of this. The guys have done an outstanding job of getting us to this point. I’ve only pitched for half the season. It shows a lot of dedication from a lot of guys to go ahead and put me out there, since I haven’t pitched in a long time. But I’m a professional and I take care of what I need to do to get ready. We’re ready to go.
“The way I’m looking at it is, it’s just another game, No. 164 now. Obviously, there’s a little more weighing on it, but I’ve done this long enough to where I know what I need to do to get ready and be in the moment, not let too many things get to me. I did a lot of work last year, trying to get myself in the right spot and I took it with me into the beginning part of the season, and then the injuries happened. But I’ll be ready to go. Whatever you guys want to throw at me, it’s not going to affect me. It’s another game to me.”
Hammel, who’s 8-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 20 starts, will continue to wear a brace that offers more support for his knee.
“It’s not very restrictive at all,” he said. “It’s a little more bulky. I do look like a quarterback when I wear it. It’s taking up all my pants, but other than that, I honestly don’t know that it’s there.”
The last time we saw Hammel in a major league game, he was limping off the mound to conclude a Sept. 11 start against the Rays at Camden Yards. He lasted only 3 2/3 innings. He doubted whether he would throw another one this season.
“At that point, I was very disappointed with the way it felt,” he said. “It was exactly the same feeling. We were a lot slower moving it along this time, very careful with it. I did feel pretty good about a week ago and I was actually told before, when it feels good, give it another week because it may feel fully healed, but it’s not. So we did that this time. We’ve taken in much slower, a lot more quality reps instead of just doing it to get back out there, so I’m confident that the knee will not be an issue.”
Showalter is displaying the same trust in Hammel that he did with Joe Saunders last night. Saunders had miserable career numbers against the Rangers, especially in Arlington, but he held them to one run in 5 1/3 innings.
“A guy with 1,000 wins as manager probably knows what buttons to push, and he’s pushed a lot of good ones this year,” Hammel said. “Everybody in this clubhouse really does appreciate the opportunity that we have. We’re pulling for each other. He’s not going to put us in a situation where he thinks we’re going to fail. He’s going to put us in a situation where he thinks we’re going to succeed and come out and do a job to the best of our ability. I honestly believe that if he didn’t think we could do it, he wouldn’t put us there.”
Hammel said he’ll keep the same approach that he always brings into his starts. What’s at stake won’t change him.
“Obviously, it’s the Yankees. They put out a stellar lineup every year,” he said. “It’s power top to bottom, but we go about our game plan just like any other team. We’ll have our guys that we won’t get beat by and it’s more about just making quality pitches. I’m not worried about any certain guys’ history. This is the one game we’re playing for right now and it’s obviously a great challenge for me and the rest of the guys, but I think we’re up to it.”