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Uehara expects to start year on DL

Uehara expects to start year on DL

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- With no real timetable for when he will get back on the mound, Orioles reliever Koji Uehara said on Monday that he expects to start the season on the disabled list.

"If it happens, there's nothing I can do about it," Uehara said through interpreter Jiwon Bang. "Obviously, we don't have many days before Opening Day [on April 6], so you kind of expect it."

Uehara exited the O's March 18 game against the Toronto Blue Jays with a left hamstring strain and hasn't thrown on the mound since suffering the injury. Prior to Monday's game, manager Dave Trembley said Uehara would have to be able to show he can throw by mid-week to avoid the DL.

"I would think Wedneday or Thursday we'd have to find out," Trembley said. "He'd have to throw a sideline [session] and pitch in a game. He'd have to face some hitters, and I'm not so sure that's going to happen right now. But I'll check with him again and see whether it's going to be viable or not."

Uehara's progression has been slow and deliberate -- mostly just light catch and running -- but he said that starting the season on the DL wouldn't be too disappointing.

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"The more important thing is to be ready physically," Uehara said.

If Uehara starts the season on the disabled list, it would open up an extra bullpen slot, perhaps for someone like Jason Berken, who has pitched predominantly out of the 'pen. Berken tossed four scoreless innings in relief of Chris Tillman in his most recent outing, on Friday, and could give the Orioles a second long-inning man to go along with Mark Hendrickson.

Trembley said on Sunday that he would also consider using Matt Albers in a long-relief situation, but even if Uehara is healthy, he will try to stay away from asking the Japanese right-hander to throw more than one inning.

"I think you're going to run into problems with Koji if you ask him to pitch three or four innings at a time," Trembley said. "You are taking your chances late in the year that he wouldn't be available. I think his best role for himself and for the team is to be used in short stints out of the bullpen."

Baltimore asked Uehara to convert from a starter to a reliever, in part, to try to maintain health. Uehara was hampered last season by a left hamstring injury and a partial tear in his right flexor tendon, and he was shut down for good in mid-September.

Uehara's current injury isn't in the same location, but it's still in the same general region.

Uehara went 2-4 with 4.05 ERA in 12 starts for Baltimore last season.

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

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