More pregame notes

The tarp is off the field and it appears that tonight's game will start on time. A few of the Royals ignored the rain this afternoon and played catch in the outfield.

Manager Buck Showalter said Saturday is as far back as the Orioles can push starter Miguel Gonzalez.

Showalter has weighed his options if Gonzalez can't pitch.

"We looked at it, but I'm hoping that everything goes well and he pitches for us on Saturday," Showalter said. "I'd hate to DL him with a blister, but this is a little bit different blister than your normal one. This has gotten through the callous and gotten through the blister underneath it. It's healing well. So far, so good.

"If he doesn't feel it at all, we'll probably give it a shot."

Nate McLouth leads the club with 10 steals. Some of the credit goes to Manny Machado, who's taking pitches in the second slot in the order.

"You see them talk a little bit," Showalter said. "One thing that's very obvious is he's very team-oriented and that's the product of a lot of things. And Manny's not afraid to hit with a strike on him, either.

"When he's swinging the bat well, they're more apt to throw him an off-speed pitch, which makes the pitcher slower to the plate, the ball slower to the plate, and also usually finishes up in a place where the catcher can't throw as well."

Since coming to the majors on Aug. 9, 2012, Machado has the most assists (178), putouts (68) and total chances (254) of any third baseman.

Showalter again endorsed better protection for starting pitchers after Toronto's J.A. Happ was hit in the head by a Desmond Jennings line drive last night at Tropicana Field.

Showalter said he watched the replay once. That was enough.

"I've heard some stuff about helmets, I know there's been some talk about inserts in the hats. I think that's a good idea," Showalter said.

"I'm for anything that helps keep our players out of harm's way. We're making coaches do it at 90 feet, first and third base coaches. I'd rather be safe.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see it in our lifetime that catchers and pitchers are wearing flapped helmets. What's wrong with it?"

Freddy Garcia, who starts Thursday, is 3-2 with a 2.88 ERA in nine career starts and 56 1/3 innings at Camden Yards. He's 10-13 with a 5.69 ERA in 28 starts against the Royals.

With a save in his next opportunity, Jim Johnson would tie Randy Myers for the longest streak of successful save conversions (34) in franchise history. Myers' streak ran from May 6-Sept. 27, 1997.

The Orioles are 9-for-24 (.375) with runners in scoring position in the last two games.

Here are the pitching matchups for the Twins series in Minnesota:

Friday: Jason Hammel vs. Mike Pelfrey
Saturday: TBA vs. Vance Worley
Sunday: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Scott Diamond

Tonight's ceremonial first pitch figures to be a memorable and inspirational one.

Tom Willis, who was born without arms or hands, will throw the ball using his feet. He has learned to use his legs and feet to do everything in his life including writing, driving a car and, yes, pitching.

Willis' appearance at Camden Yards tonight is part of his "Pitch for Awareness" national tour. This summer, he will continue to travel to major league stadiums across the country to pitch a ball and his message of the awareness of the abilities of persons with disabilities.

To date, Willis has thrown at 19 major league stadiums.

Willis is a motivational speaker who meets with students of all ages and talks about how he turns obstacles into opportunities. His tour brought him to Sports Legends Museum today, and later to Camden Yards.

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