Gonzalez targeting mid-June for return

Gonzalez targeting mid-June for return

NEW YORK -- Injured Orioles closer Mike Gonzalez is slated to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday at the team's Minor League complex in Sarasota, Fla., and if all goes well, he'll throw an inning of a simulated or extended spring game on Saturday.

Gonzalez, who is out with a left shoulder strain, is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list as early as June 9, but the target date remains the week of June 14, when the Orioles travel to the West Coast for series against San Francisco and San Diego. Following that series, the Orioles will open a nine-game homestand against the Florida Marlins on June 22.

"I don't want to come back here," Gonzalez said in a phone interview from Sarasota. "So, I want to make sure that I'm right before I get up there."

That means avoiding taking a step back in his rehab. President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and Gonzalez conferred on the phone last week and agreed the best course of action to get the lefty's mid-90s velocity back was to take a break from throwing in extended spring games and start a long-toss program.

Following a 30-pitch all-fastball bullpen session Monday, Gonzalez said he has no pain in his arm or his back (which plagued him this spring) and agreed with the organization's approach to build back up his arm.

"Obviously, I can't go up [to the Majors] throwing 85 mph and get guys out," said Gonzalez, who was clocked at 89 mph during his first extended spring outing but decreased in the pair of innings he threw shortly thereafter.

Gonzalez, who was placed on the DL retroactive to April 10, said he would like to consistently be around 89-90 mph before leaving Sarasota on a rehab assignment. Given his start as an Oriole -- 0-2 and an 18.00 ERA -- and subsequent arm injury, Gonzalez called the tedious rehab process one of the most frustrating times of his career.

"I had that back issue, and I don't have that luxury of going to Spring Training again and building up my arm," he said.

"It's a hard pill to swallow, but I'm trying to get it together [and] stay positive about the same situation. And hopefully it's just another week or two before I get up there."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.