Pregame notes on Wieters, Pearce, Hundley, the rotation and Almanzar

NEW YORK - Catcher Matt Wieters is back in Atlanta following ligament-reconstructive surgery and already is doing some light exercises on his right elbow.

Wieters is wearing an immobilizer on his arm instead of a cast.

“They got the spur that we knew was there out,” said manager Buck Showalter. “It’s impossible to think he’s going to throw even better next year, but he might.”

Showalter said Wieters could join the Orioles during the homestand that leads into the All-Star break.

Steve Pearce remains the No. 2 hitter for the Orioles. He begins tonight with a .324 average in 35 games, with nine doubles, a career-high five home runs and 15 RBIs.

“He’s done a good job for us,” Showalter said. “He’s working some deep counts and extending some pitch counts. Try to ride that a little bit. He’s been solid.”

The move also enables Showalter to lower Manny Machado to seventh.

“It’s more about taking advantage of Steve swinging the bat well,” Showalter said. “Whether we put Steve seventh or Manny seventh, we’re trying to present some challenges at the bottom of the order, too, which has been a little bit of a challenge for us.”

Nick Hundley is behind the tonight after Caleb Joseph caught the last three games.

“I don’t want Nick to get too far away,” Showalter said. “We kind of pushed the envelope because I wanted Caleb to catch Gaus (Kevin Gausman) with the day game after the night game, and I want to give him the benefit of two days (rest) in a row, too. Make sure his legs stay strong. And Nick’s got some things to offer, too. I want to keep him involved.”

The bullpen still carries six relievers, but a starter could be used in an emergency.

“We just prepared ourselves if we have an extra-inning game or an early exit or something,” Showalter said. “We talked about it. We had a couple guys (Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez) take their work days today and one guy we didn’t do it with, but we’ll be able to cover that spot if we have to use him. We’re prepared for whichever way the game takes us.”

Bud Norris and Tillman will start the last two games of this series. The Orioles haven’t announced their starters for the White Sox series that begins Monday at Camden Yards. Wei-Yin Chen, Gonzalez and Gausman would be in turn.

The Orioles are off Thursday and have a day-night doubleheader against the Rays on June 27 at Camden Yards.

“We’ll see how deep we get tonight,” Showalter said. “If our starters went six, seven, eight innings every night, I know what we’re going to do, but I’ve got to leave the wiggle room. We’ve got things in place.

“We’re not going to put the bullpen in harm’s way. So far we haven’t had to do that. Came close in Tampa that last day, but because we had an off day yesterday...

“Do I think we’re going to be at six the rest of the season? I hope so, because that would mean our starters were pitching real well, but you and I know that’s going to be a challenge.”

The Orioles should find out on Saturday whether Josh Stinson cleared waivers and could be outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. A trade also remains a possibility.

“There are some things that Dan (Duquette) is maneuvering with,” Showalter said.

Rule 5 pick Michael Almanzar, on the 60-day disabled list with left patellar tendinitis, played in his first rehab game today with the Gulf Coast League Orioles. Starting at third base, Almanzar went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and two throwing errors.

Asked whether the American League East could be won by whichever team makes the best deal at the non-waiver trade deadline, Showalter replied, “I like our guys. I like what we’ve got and I’m not planning on anybody showing up and I’m OK with that.

“I looked out there Wednesday and we had five homegrown players on the field - Gausman, (Jonathan) Schoop, Machado, (Nick) Markakis, Caleb Joseph. We feel like Jonesy (Adam Jones) is almost homegrown if you look at the people you developed.

“One of the keys for us has been knowing who we are and who we’re not. God bless New York and what they can do. I’d do the same thing if I was them. But we’re going to continue doing things the way we have to do them to hopefully be consistently competitive.”

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