Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel is optimistic that he can avoid the disabled list if his next start is pushed back a few days.
Hammel won't make tomorrow's scheduled start because of a sore right knee. An MRI didn't reveal any structural damage, but there's fluid in the knee that's required treatment.
"Two or three starts, each start it's gotten progressively worse - more just fluid in my knee where it's stiff," Hammel said. "I can't really drive off my back leg. It was getting worse and worse, so I think the smart thing to do is give it a couple days, if we can, to kind of calm it down instead of missing a month or a month and a half or more. And we'll go from there.
"I've never been pushed back before. Any injuries I've had in the past have been DL stuff. I had an injury like this with my left leg before, but it was in the end of the season of '08 with Tampa, where I had surgery when the season was over. But I didn't have to pitch then, so it's a little different scenario."
Asked about the results of his MRI, Hammel said, "There's fluid and inflammation. Other than that, maybe an old injury that had been re-aggravated. Nothing fancy."
Hammel has gotten off to an impressive start, which adds to his frustration. He's 4-1 with a 2.09 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings over six starts.
"Obviously. I'm not too happy about it, but it's just the smartest thing to do for right now," he said. "I need to help this team down the road. Initially, (skip) one start instead of trying to battle through it and it keeps getting worse and worse and maybe something bigger would happen. We'll see if we can get it controlled."
As for his non-pitching schedule, Hammel said, "I haven't been told anything over the last couple days, though I've made a lot of progress with it with just treatment. So, I'm confident that it's not going to be very long. I've thrown. I've tested it every day trying to see every day where it's at.
"Obviously, it's my right knee, it's my back knee, so it's my drive leg. If I don't have that, I'm not going to be able to pitch."
Manager Buck Showalter confirmed Hammel's knee injury during today's pregame session with the media.
"Jason Hammel's having some knee soreness, so we're taking a look at whether or not he'll be able to make his start tomorrow," Showalter said. "He had an MRI on it a couple days ago just to see if there were any structural issues there or anything. I think we've got a good feel for what we're dealing with, but it feels a little better each day, so we've got to make a decision on whether we're going to pitch him or not. Right now, it's a push him back.
"He had this issue with the other knee. I think he's had some experience with it. The funny thing is, it's the first spring he said he didn't have any problems with it at all, and it's getting a little bit worse the last two starts. But he's been able to manage it back to where it was 100 percent before he pitched.
"The last two or three it's gotten more fluid, but it's managed itself and gone away. We're trying to be real cautious with it."
The Orioles must find someone to make a spot start tomorrow night, and that pitcher will come from the minors. As I wrote earlier, Brad Bergesen is scheduled to pitch tomorrow night for Triple-A Norfolk. Tommy Hunter would be pitching on short rest, and would have to replace a player who goes on the disabled list, which could happen with outfielder Endy Chavez. Chris Tillman also would be pitching on short rest after throwing six innings for Norfolk on Sunday.