Hammel's next step to come at instructional league

Hammel's next step to come at instructional league

BALTIMORE -- Pitcher Jason Hammel, who has been sidelined with right knee discomfort, threw another bullpen session Friday afternoon and will throw a simulated game at the fall instructional league early next week.

"It would be better in that environment in Sarasota, [Fla.], where they can get the players and be more realistic about it," manager Buck Showalter said of the plan for Hammel, which is contingent on him feeling OK on Saturday. "We'll have a better feel tomorrow and see how he feels after coming in and having that strain at that level today. Tentatively we're thinking Monday or Tuesday. I believe they're thinking about the [simulated] game where we can control the environment of that game, which is important."

Hammel threw a 35-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday, his first time off a regular mound, and was encouraged with that how session went. The 30-year-old has been wearing a knee brace, which he joked is his best Dan Marino impression, and has responded favorably with it so far.

Showalter didn't eliminate the possibility that Hammel could pitch in a postseason game even if he doesn't appear in another regular-season game.

"If he comes through that with what we're probably going to do, expose him to, then it's more of a reality," Showalter said. "[Pitching coach Rick Adair] and I are talking about the equivalent of three [innings] today, so you'll probably see between four and six. He's not so far removed from arm strength and everything that it shouldn't be an issue."

The team's best starter when healthy, Hammel aggravated his surgically repaired knee in his second start back from the disabled list on Sept. 11. He is 8-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 20 starts despite being hampered by knee issues the past three months.