Jason Hammel: "I'd say I'm ready"

ABERDEEN, Md. - After throwing 57 pitches over four innings tonight at short-season Single-A Aberdeen, Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel pronounced himself ready to return to the big leagues.

"I'd say I'm ready," Hammel said after his outing. "I don't exactly know what the plan is for the next couple of days. But I've done my work and they've taken good care of me. I feel healthy and ready to go when they want me."

Hammel had a very sharp first two innings tonight, getting six quick outs on 17 pitches against the Lowell Spinners. He gave up three hits and a run in the third inning, but none of the hits were that well struck. He walked one and fanned two tonight.

"Very, very happy with it," he said of his second rehab outing. "Even better command of the fastball this time. Good sinkers and the slider was where it needs to be. Everything else was good, too, but of the things I was working on today, the fastball and the slider, wanted to be down in the zone and that is what we did.

"I am just happy to be healthy and feeling good and feel like I can help the team."

When he threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings last Thursday for Double-A Bowie, Hammel said command of his slider was important and he had it here tonight as well.

"It is a totally different feel," he said. "I'm able to finish it and spin it the way I want to. Can throw it for strikes and to get strikeouts. I feel really good with it."

On the disabled list with a right flexor mass strain since July 29, does Hammel feel his stuff is better now than earlier in the season?

"I think the hitters will tell me, but I feel it is where I need to be," he said. "Down here, you are still facing hitters, but it is hard to set them up the way you want. But I had a lot of ground balls and that is what I do well, so that tells me something."

Hammel got seven of 12 outs on ground balls.

Hammel had some praise for Aberdeen catcher Scott Kalush, particularly for his blocking of some pitches in the dirt.

He was quite aware that Aberdeen clinched a playoff berth here last night and was resting some starters in this game.

"I was glad they won the division title last night and I didn't have any pressure on me tonight," he joked. "It was actually pretty fun."

Aberdeen wins again: Even though they wrapped up a playoff berth last night, Aberdeen won again tonight 8-7 as Kalush and Manny Hernandez hit three-run homers. Aberdeen improves to 39-32 with its fourth win in a row and has eight wins over the last 11 games. The IronBirds host Lowell to conclude the regular season on Wednesday night before hosting game 1 of a best-of-three playoff series Friday night against Tri-City.

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