Jason Hammel talks about rejoining the rotation tonight

When the Orioles acquired Bud Norris on July 31, Jason Hammel went on the disabled list with a right flexor mass strain. Now, several weeks later, Norris is having his scheduled start tonight skipped due to elbow inflammation and Hammel is taking his spot this evening at Toronto.

He's not excited how it happened, but is looking forward to his latest chance to pitch as an O's starter.

"Definitely. It was disappointing to go on the DL," Hammel said. "Bud came in and filled in very well and hopefully he gets better soon. This is another opportunity to show what I can do. I'm obviously excited to get back on the mound in a starting role. I never took myself out of that role. I figured I would get another opportunity."

Hammel has said a few times now that his injury impacted his ability to throw a good slider and that is no longer an issue for him. That is the biggest difference for him, he said, pre DL and post DL.

"Yes, 100 percent," Hammel said. "Just being able to feel the extension, that and on the fastball. It is hard to pitch when you are afraid - well, not afraid - but it hurts to get to full extension. So with that not in the back of your mind, it should be much, much different."

Hammel is 7-8 with a 5.11 ERA in 22 games, 21 starts for the Orioles this season. He was their opening day starter. He came off the disabled list Sept. 5 and made a bullpen appearance three days later with two scoreless innings against the White Sox. It is his only outing since returning from the DL.

So how about pitch count tonight and how deep might he be able to go in the game?

"I'm going to go until my arm falls off," Hammel said. "I had a month off and all these guys are a little more beat up. I've got a fresh arm and plenty of bullets left.

"They (the Blue Jays) are very aggressive, so getting ahead and strike one is very important. Get ahead and work off that."

At the end of this season, Hammel will be a free agent and his future with the Orioles is uncertain.

"You know, I haven't really started to think about it," he said of his pending free agency. "I know that I can help whatever ballclub when I'm healthy. First and foremost, I was able to do that.

"Now we are right here in the middle of a playoff chase, so I am not looking any further than that. We'll let those cards come out when they happen. Right now it is a lot more fun being in a playoff race then trying to figure out what my next job is going to be."

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