Orioles Lose Hammel, Regain Share of AL East Lead


The Baltimore Orioles have been everyone’s feel-good story in 2012, but a couple Birds are feeling anything but good lately.

Hammel re-injured his knee in Tuesday’s start versus the Rays. Image: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

Just days after losing right fielder Nick Markakis to a broken thumb that will sideline him for the remainder of the regular season, right hander Jason Hammel had to leave his start versus Tampa Bay on Tuesday with a right knee injury.

It’s the same knee he underwent surgery on in July to clear out loose cartilage. Now, he says, he’s hoping for the best.

"“I thought we had cleaned it up and it’s more of a kind of wait and see how it feels tomorrow now. I’m hoping it is just scar tissue.”"

What has Hammel spooked is that the injury feels so similar to the one he suffered on July 13.

"“It feels exactly the same as it did in the game against Detroit,” Hammel said. “It was just one pitch and then after that pitch, I couldn’t load on the leg again when I tried to transfer the weight toward the plate. It’s a very sharp pain in the knee in the same spot, so I really don’t know what to say.”"

Hammel will undergo an MRI on Wednesday. If Hammel’s injury requires another arthroscopic procedure, he will likely miss the rest of the season and the post-season.

The orioles went on to beat Tampa Bay by a 9-2 score on the back of J.J. Hardy‘s pair of round-trippers. Meanwhile, the Yankees were walked-off by Jacoby Ellsbury and the Boston Red Sox, bringing the O’s and Yankees to a flat-footed tie atop the division, with Tampa Bay lingering just two games back.

If the Rays have the pitching and the Yankees have the offense, Baltimore could have hung their hat on being the healthiest of the three teams coming down the stretch. Without Hammel and Markakis, they can longer make that claim. What they can boast, however, is a lineup that features four guys with at least 21 home runs and another with 19. Neither Hardy nor Mark Reynolds has had a season to remember when you look at the overall numbers, but both have gotten hot recently.

Hammel has been Baltimore’s most effective starter this season, so losing him from an already mediocre rotation is less than ideal. The Orioles did get a bit of good news Tuesday, when right hander Chris Tillman tossed a pain-free bullpen session. He could re-join the rotation on Thursday.

In other Orioles news, the club designated the contract of reliever Kevin Gregg for assignment in order to clear roster space for the recall of outfielders L.J. Hoes and Endy Chavez from Triple-A Norfolk… Baltimore is hoping that Markakis could return sometime during the playoffs, should the club get there… Injured DH Jim Thome has begun taking batting practice at Baltimore’s Spring Training complex in Sarasota, Fla. and hope remains that Thome could play again this season.

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