Hammel encouraged after mound session

Jason Hammel threw off a mound today for the first time since going on the disabled list with a strained right flexor mass. He used all of his pitches, including a slider that had brought the most discomfort to his arm, and is moving closer to an injury-rehab assignment.

"It went real well," Hammel said. "It felt great. I felt the extension that I was looking for that I didn't have before, so outstanding.

"We'll go again on Sunday. I'm not trying to stay on the DL, I'm trying to get back. So I may as well let it fly. It's felt good for a few days now after long-tossing."

Hammel threw 45 pitches, the first 30 from the stretch.

"Everything felt real good," he said.

Hammel will throw off a mound again on Sunday. Assuming there are no setbacks, he will likely begin his rehab assignment on Wednesday or Thursday.

"As soon as they want me to," Hammel said. "I figure two sides, maybe bump it up to 60 (pitches) on Sunday, and I should be good for at least five innings after that, if we're going on a five-day thing."

The Orioles expect Hammel to pitch in two games before coming off the disabled list.

"The fewer the better, obviously," he said. "I don't want to be doing too much work in the minor leagues. I want to save my bullets for up here."

Hammel will start the first game of his rehab assignment, but he could be used as a reliever in the second and remain in that role with the Orioles. He made 35 appearances in relief with Tampa Bay in 2008, four with Colorado in 2009 and five with the Rockies in 2010 before the Orioles traded for him over the winter.

Hammel is 7-8 with a 5.20 ERA in 21 starts with the Orioles this season, and he hasn't won since May 27. Manager Buck Showalter was asked whether he's more convinced now that Hammel's ineffectiveness was caused by the injury.

"I'm not any less convinced," Showalter replied. "Ham's got some things going for him. He's healthy coming back, we think, and rested. And being very cautious with it. Because of the trade for Scott (Feldman) and Buddy (Norris), we were able to give it what was needed. We knew there was nothing structurally wrong there. It was just a matter of how he was coming back.

"There are some things that bode well for him. He's got a rested arm. If you look at him, history-wise, before we acquired him, he really pitched well for Colorado the last month of the season. At that time, it was out of the bullpen, so it opens up some possibilities both ways for us. That gives us a lot of confidence that he's got a chance to pitch well for us in whatever capacity the rest of the way."

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