BALTIMORE -- For as much of a positive step as throwing off of an incline was on Saturday, Jason Hammel was facing another test in simply waking up on Sunday.

At times during his battle with soreness in his right knee, Hammel struggled to even walk without pain. Those issues eventually led to surgery and a stint on the disabled list that began July 15.

So when Hammel woke up on Sunday and got out of bed without even thinking about pain, much less feeling any, it was a major positive -- one that makes the Orioles comfortable enough to have him throw off a mound on Monday.

"No swelling or anything, so that's definitely a good sign," Hammel said before Sunday's game against the Royals. " I feel like we're making progress."

"Tomorrow we'll get up on the mound and see how it goes."

Manager Buck Showalter said the next step was to have Hammel come in and throw around 11 a.m. ET on Monday, with the next move to be determined from there.

The key in Monday's session will be Hammel's ability to use his right, push leg to full capacity.

"Just the tentativeness of me to push with the back side, because that's where the pain was," Hammel said. "Just getting through that, obviously. And yesterday there was no hesitance at all, so I feel good."

O's option reliever Socolovich to Triple-A

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles optioned right-handed reliever Miguel Socolovich to Triple-A Norfolk after Sunday's game.

Socolovich, who has pitched to a 6.97 ERA in 10 1/3 innings across three stints with the O's, was recalled on Wednesday to provide an extra arm for a bullpen that pitched nine innings in Tuesday's 14-inning marathon.

Manager Buck Showalter said on Wednesday that Socolovich's status with the O's would be reassessed on a "day to day" basis.

The righty allowed only one hit in two shutout innings against Seattle on Wednesday before surrendering one run -- an Alex Gordon solo homer -- on two hits against the Royals on Saturday.

Socolovich is 4-0 with a 1.90 ERA in 52 innings for Norfolk this season.

A corresponding roster move has not yet been announced.

Jones gets first start as DH, other O's rest

BALTIMORE -- After 114 consecutive starts in center field to open the season, Adam Jones made his first career start at designated hitter on Sunday against the Royals.

With game time barely more than 12 hours after Saturday's game drew to a close, O's manager Buck Showalter chose to schedule off-days for Matt Wieters, Chris Davis and Wilson Betemit, as well.

"It's almost inhumane in a lot of ways what we ask Major League baseball players to do for 30 straight days, 10 hours a day," Showalter said. "I have a real empathy for them, because I see what it takes to play the game at the level they try to play it at."

Sunday marked the O's 30th game in 31 days since the All-Star break. With a scheduled off-day on Monday, Showalter took advantage of the opportunity to give certain players back-to-back days to rest.

Showalter expects that time to be especially valuable for Wieters, who has caught the team's past nine games, including a 10-inning game on Aug. 5 and a 14-inning marathon on Tuesday.

"It's been a grind for him," Showalter said. "It's as much mental as it is physical. The decisions, and the grind, and the day to day. The pitches and all of the things he has to do. Everybody is going to hit a wall at some point."

Showalter said that players usually get into a physical rhythm, but having to maintain a focus for so many days in a row can be difficult.

"It's a great way to make a living, but there are stretches you go through where you're really challenged," Showalter said. "It's more a mental alertness. Physically, you kind of get into overdrive.

"It's the mental part of it that gets challenging this time of year, because there's such an allure to give yourself an emotional and a mental day off, and you just can't do it."

Tidbits

• When Ryan Flaherty heads to Norfolk on Tuesday for a rehab assignment, O's manager Buck Showalter plans to give Triple-A skipper Ron Johnson the leeway to use the utility player wherever he believes is best to help the team make a playoff push. Showalter only ruled out catcher and center field, saying he wants Flaherty to hit in the top three of the order to get as many at-bats as possible.

• Triple-A pitcher Jason Berken has been pulled from the Norfolk rotation so that he will be available to pitch for the O's as a September callup without reaching his innings limit. Berken is 4-4 with a 3.49 ERA in 121 1/3 innings this season.