Hammel ready to rejoin Orioles and for possible bullpen role

Jason Hammel has pitched in 41 games for the Orioles the last two years and each one has been as a starter. But as he is set to return to the team now, if they want to use him out of the bullpen, he's up for that.

"Obviously I'd like to be a starter, but it's September and everybody is used in any situation," Hammel said after his outing last night in Aberdeen. "I am just happy to be healthy and feeling good and I know I can help the team.

"It is a completely different mindset, but I do have experience there. It's September and you have to be ready for anything."

Hammel pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings for Double-A Bowie last Thursday and last night gave up three hits and one run over four innings for the IronBirds in his second, and what is expected to be his last, rehab outing.

On the disasbled list since July 29 with a right flexor mass strain, Hammel said he is feeling as healthy now as he was back at the beginning of spring training. He said he can now get full extension to throw his slider and other pitches and he wanted to get a lot of ground ball outs last night, and he did.

"I just wanted to be at the knees or below," Hammel said. "It was pretty good. Very happy with it. When I am going well I get a lot of ground balls, so that tells me something.

"I never lost confidence, it was just frustrating. Without confidence you can't pitch in the big leagues. Just very, very happy with being able now to finish pitches."

Hammel said he had been at Ripken Stadium before, but it was 11 years ago in his first pro season and he didn't pitch when his team made a trip there.

"I got up here early (yesterday) and drove around," Hammel said. "I was telling the guys that in my first week of pro ball, I spent a week and a half in Princeton, West Virginia and then got moved up to Hudson Valley.

"We came here for a series and it was my first real look at a minor league stadium and it was real nice. I was amazed at this stadium. I said, 'The minor leagues is going to be great.' Then I saw that other stadiums are not nearly as nice."

Now he feels ready to pitch in a bigger venue and rejoin the O's for the season's stretch run.

Zach Britton makes the start for the Orioles tonight. He allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of his final four Triple-A starts, including one run in each of his final two starts. In his final start with the Tides, last Wednesday at Charlotte, he tied his season-high with eight strikeouts and registered 13 groundouts and no fly ball outs.

In his 19 Norfolk starts, he posted a 2.98 groundout/flyout ratio. He finished 12 innings shy of qualifying among minor league leaders, where that ratio would have been tops at the Double-A and Triple-A levels.

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