BALTIMORE -- Orioles closer Mike Gonzalez isn't in any pain, but the injured reliever hasn't built up enough arm strength in his strained left shoulder and will start an extensive long-toss throwing program at the team's Spring Training complex in Sarasota, Fla.
Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said that he spoke on the phone with Gonzalez on Wednesday night, and they were both in agreement over the course of action. Since Gonzalez was recently moved from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL, he has time to step back and build up his arm before throwing in any more extended spring games.
"He just doesn't have the arm strength he should have," manager Dave Trembley said of Gonzalez, who's typical mid-90s fastball has touched the upper 80s during three extended spring outings. "That's why the velocity readings are where they are at."
"Mike is fine with it, and we think if he does that for a week or so, his arm strength will come back to where it was."
Gonzalez is eligible to come off the DL on June 9, but given this recent setback, it's more likely he will return that following week, for the team's West Coast trip that begins on June 14.
Atkins snaps lengthy long-ball drought
BALTIMORE -- Just one at-bat shy of his career-long homerless drought, Baltimore first baseman Garrett Atkins finally went yard on Wednesday night. His solo shot in the third inning snapped a 47-game skid and ended his homerless at-bat stretch at 145.
"Obviously it's been tough," Atkins said of his slump. "You want to be out there playing and proving that you deserve to play. And when you get chances to play and you don't perform well, it's frustrating."
"That's one more thing that everybody can put to bed now that he hit a home run," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.
Facing a 1-2 count, Atkins drove Oakland right-hander Trevor Cahill's curveball 374 feet over the left-field fence at Camden Yards.
"I got ahead, I was feeling pretty confident and throwing the new curveball I've been working on, and I hung it right down the middle," Cahill said.
It was Atkins' first home run in the American League. His last roundtripper came as a member of the Colorado Rockies on Sept. 10, 2009, off the Cincinnati Reds' Kip Wells.
"Hopefully it's a sign of finding a swing," Atkins said. "In the past, when I've been able to find a swing, it's sustained itself for a while, so hopefully I just continue having quality at-bats, hitting balls hard like tonight. If I can do that two or three times a game, then things will turn around really quickly."
In his next two at-bats after the third-inning bash, Atkins hit a hard groundout to short and lined out to center.
Serving as the team's designated hitter for the second consecutive game, Atkins' blast marked his seventh RBI of the season and raised his average to .225. The struggling infielder has been DHing in the wake of Luke Scott's shoulder injury.
"When you get opportunities like that, you gotta take advantage of it," Atkins said. "The way things are going around here right now, if you're swinging the bat, they'll find somewhere to put you."
-- Noah Rosenstein
Scott expects to return on Thursday
BALTIMORE -- Luke Scott said his left shoulder felt better on Wednesday afternoon and was optimistic he would be back in the lineup for Thursday's series finale.
"I took some dry swings. I didn't take anything off the tee," Scott said. "But I talked to [head athletic trainer Richie Bancells] and he said we're going to give it another complete day off."
Scott strained his left shoulder while diving for a ball at first base in the 10th inning of Sunday's walk-off loss to the Nationals. The play also cost Orioles closer Alfredo Simon, who was placed on the disabled list (left hamstring strain) prior to Tuesday's game. Scott's injury isn't as serious; he said plans for an MRI were changed because his shoulder felt markedly better from Tuesday to Wednesday.
"I went home [Wednesday] night. I flushed my body. I drank a lot of alkaline water, took in a lot of green foods and put the stint machine on my shoulder," Scott said. "I iced it a few times, went through my treatments. It feels a lot better."
Scott said the strain reaggravated his left shoulder, which he also injured last season. The plan is for him is to continue to get treatment, and manager Dave Trembley said he would try to stay away from using Scott in Wednesday's game.
"If it comes down to a situation to pinch-hit him in the game, that's a 50-50 thing for me," Trembley said. "It's kind of iffy whether I would do it."
Trembley also echoed Scott's opinion that the designated hitter could be back in the lineup on Friday, which would be welcome relief for the Orioles. Losing Scott for any length of time would certainly be a blow to an already injury-plagued team. Scott has hit in 12 of his past 14 games, going 22-for-52 (.423) with three doubles, six homers and 12 RBIs over that stretch.
In place of Scott the Orioles had Garrett Atkins serving as the designated hitter. Atkins started Tuesday for the first time since Baltimore's loss to Texas on May 19. Atkins is hitting .222 on the year and was marred in a career-high homerless drought of 47 games until Wednesday.
O's prospect returns from broken leg
BALTIMORE -- Orioles outfield prospect Kieron Pope took a big step in his recovery from a broken right femur. He was assigned to Class A Delmarva in the South Atlantic League this week and played in his first games since the injury.
"I think that's a really neat, neat story," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I'm trying to get his phone number so I can call him."
Pope broke his femur -- considered to be the strongest bone in the human body -- on April 3, 2009, during a Minor League Spring Training game. He was trying to beat out a ground ball and snapped the bone after crossing first base.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound left fielder underwent three surgeries -- one the day after the injury, to insert a metal rod in his leg, another in July, to repair a broken screw in his hip that was holding the rod in place, and finally one in December, to remove the rod and screws. Trembley, who coached Pope in the instructional league in '05 and '06, also credited Orioles Minor League medical coordinator Dave Walker for Pope's recovery.
The 23-year old Pope was selected by the Orioles in the fourth round of the '05 First-Year Player Draft. He was named the organization's 10th-best prospect after hitting .257 with five home runs and 56 RBIs in '06. He has appeared in three games for the Shorebirds so far in '10, starting twice as a designated hitter and once in left field. He is batting .231 3-for-13 over those starts.
-- Noah Rosenstein
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Noah Rosenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.