O's don't expect Ray to return in '08

O's don't expect Ray to return in '08

BALTIMORE -- There hasn't been a setback, but Chris Ray isn't moving quite as quickly as he'd hoped in his return from ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow. Baltimore's erstwhile closer recently got back on the mound to throw a simulated game, but manager Dave Trembley said he doesn't expect to see him back this season.

"He is not close to pitching in any kind of games whatsoever," said Trembley when asked about Ray's progress. "He will just continue his throwing program. He has not been slowed down."

The right-hander threw a simulated game in Sarasota, Fla., on Wednesday and had previously thrown two batting practice sessions, and Trembley said there's no telling when he'll progress to a rehab stint. Ray has always said that he'd like to be back in the big leagues by August or September, but Trembley bristled when asked about that possibility.

"That's Chris Ray's expectation," Trembley said. "That's never been our expectation. My expectation is to take a conservative action. If he were to join the club before this season was over, that's a bonus.

"But I'm not particularly counting on that. I would take more of a conservative approach -- if this was me -- and gear him more toward pitching in Instructional League and getting [himself] ready for Spring Training."

Ray, who made 43 appearances last season before being shut down with the elbow ailment, had his surgery last August. The right-hander's role has been recast in light of the success of current close George Sherrill, but the Orioles are going to be as careful as possible. The 26-year-old has 49 career saves, but now his team is trying to preserve his future.

"Obviously," said Trembley, "if something changes and he's able to come here at the end of the season, that would be a real nice thing for everyone. But to be perfectly honest with you, that's not in my thought process at this time."

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