"The original injury, when I threw the pitch in the game that time, it hurt [behind the knee]," Hammel said. "So it's obviously dealing with getting past that, because it's still a little tentative to push off of it. But the first 'pen I threw was like 70 percent, second 'pen was about 90 percent. So a little more effort, and I was a little more sore that last time. But [that's] to be expected when you're putting more effort into it."
Hammel, 29, and the Orioles are still targeting a return in early September, with the next step throwing in a simulated game.
"That's obviously the next step from throwing in a bullpen, but who knows?" said manager Buck Showalter, who was careful not to put an exact timetable on Hammel's return. "It could be two or three times more down there [in the bullpen].
"I'm going to leave it up to Rick and [head athletic trainer Richie Bancells] and Ham, because they're aware of each other and what he needs to do. But so far, so good. If you had told me when the surgery happened that we would be sitting here this close to talking about [his return], I'd feel real good about it."
Hammel, who has a 8-6 record and 3.54 ERA, was placed on the 15-day disabled list on July 15. He had pitched well despite dealing with the nagging soreness in the knee that finally forced him to undergo surgery. His return is expected to help stabilize an inconsistent rotation, and he has made no secret about the fact that the rehab process can't go quickly enough.
"It actually feels great walking on it, just that movement off the mound is the only thing we have to get by," he said. "I think if I can get through that, we can be off and running."