Rehabbing O's return to clubhouse

Rehabbing O's return to clubhouse

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Orioles welcomed back some familiar faces to their clubhouse on Friday, when Chris Ray, Fernando Cabrera and Freddie Bynum rejoined the team for the first time since Spring Training. Ray, Cabrera and Bynum have all been rehabbing their respective injuries at the team's Minor League complex in Sarasota, Fla.

Ray, who underwent ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow last August, is the furthest away from returning to action. The erstwhile closer is still a month or more from getting back on the mound for the first time, and the closest he has gotten to baseball drills is playing long toss from distances ranging from 60 to 150 feet.

"I've still got a long walk back," Ray said on Friday. "I'm just taking it one day at a time right now. If I ever run into some kind of trouble, we'll take a few days off and keep going. But so far, it's been pretty good."

"He feels like he's way ahead of the program," added manager Dave Trembley. "And he feels like he can pitch right now, but obviously that's not going to happen. He's a couple of months away from getting back on the mound."

Barring any setbacks, Ray said Friday that he'll start pitching from flat ground at the beginning of May. And if everything works out, he said he'll be able to start mound work two weeks later. Ray has maintained all along that it's important for him to pitch again this season, and pitching coach Rick Kranitz said Friday that he's been impressed by his progress.

"If I was just a spectator, not knowing him, and walked out for the first day and saw him throw, you wouldn't have known [he was ever injured]," Kranitz said of the right-hander's recovery. "That's how good I think he's come along with his rehab. But it's a process. He's still got to build the arm strength. He's in good spirits and things are looking up for him which is really nice to see."

Things are rosier for Cabrera and Bynum, who are both expected back before the All-Star break. Cabrera, a reliever, is working back from arthroscopic surgery on his pitching elbow, and threw 35 pitches off a mound on Friday. Cabrera still isn't able to throw his slider, but Kranitz said that could come as soon as Sunday.

After that, the Orioles want to test him by pitching on back-to-back days before he goes for a rehab assignment. Kranitz said he's not sure when Cabrera will be ready but nodded when one reporter estimated the beginning of June.

"It's hard to say. He'll tell us that by how he's throwing," he said. "His delivery looked like it was much improved from what I saw in Spring Training. His arm strength looks real good. He threw the ball real good."

Trembley went into greater detail than Kranitz, saying that Cabrera had been throwing across his body last season. Trembley wasn't sure if he had been doing that to compensate for pain in his elbow, but he said that Cabrera's mechanics have improved greatly since his corrective surgery.

"Kranitz today told me that he was right on line," said Trembley, relaying some crucial information. "He wasn't throwing across his body and the ball was coming out of his hand very good. It would be good news for him and good news for us. It would give us another power type arm to have, but obviously he has to pitch in some games."

Bynum, who would afford the Orioles another reserve option in the middle infield, has made steady recovery from a torn meniscus in his right knee. The veteran will begin playing in rehab games on Monday and said he'll only need around 25 at-bats before he's ready to return. Then again, he said the Orioles will be the ones to make that decision.

"I'm just ready to start playing," he said. "I feel great. I just have to get my endurance back, and it just comes with repetition. I'm just getting it stronger and stronger, and just try to be ready whenever they want me to come back."

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