BALTIMORE -- The Orioles issued a challenge on Wednesday to all elementary, middle and high schools in the state of Maryland to "Go Orange" and demonstrate their support for the Orioles.

Schools are encouraged to decorate their classrooms, gymnasium and other indoor spaces; adorn the outside of their school or athletic fields with an Orioles look; or to involve students in demonstrating their O's pride, including wearing orange or Orioles clothing.

Schools will be judged on their overall creativity, school spirit and "best use of orange." The winning school will receive a visit from an Orioles player and the Oriole Bird on Thursday, Sept. 27, just before the Orioles play the Red Sox in their final home regular season series of the year during Fan Appreciation Weekend.

For more information, students, teachers and school administrators are invited to visit www.orioles.com/GoOrange. Details regarding a school's involvement can be submitted, along with a photo, at this website beginning on Friday. Only school administrators are eligible to submit a form, and only one form should be submitted per school. Entries must be received by next Thursday, Sept. 20.

Hammel encouraged; knee MRI set for Thursday

BALTIMORE -- Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel was seen by team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens on Tuesday and the plan is for him to get an MRI exam on his right knee Thursday morning at 10 a.m.

The team won't know anything further until then, although Hammel was a little encouraged that his knee didn't swell up overnight.

"There isn't a lot of swelling," said Hammel, who missed nearly two months after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on the same knee. "But that raises more questions for me, like, what's going on?"

"Hopefully by tomorrow afternoon, we will have an idea what we are dealing with," said manager Buck Showalter, who came out to the mound after Hammel went 3 2/3 innings Tuesday night, along with head athletic trainer Richie Bancells.

"As Dr. Wilckens said, the initial look at it, same thing that Richie and them saw last night. I think the medical term is "unremarkable." But that's just the early blush. So, I don't think we will really know anything until we get the MRI back tomorrow."

Day after surgery, Markakis back to support O's

BALTIMORE -- A day removed from left thumb surgery, Nick Markakis was back in Baltimore and in the Orioles' clubhouse Wednesday afternoon, with two pins underneath his cast.

"They didn't put a plate in because it was too jacked up in there, too many pieces for them to actually put it back together," Markakis said of the injury that was suffered when he was hit by a pitch from Yankees ace CC Sabathia. "So I have two pins going in through my hand, holding the bones back in place. It's three weeks until I get my pins out and then we go from there."

Injured for the first time in his career earlier this season, Markakis hopes to return in 3-4 weeks, which would only be relevant if the O's reach the postseason. He will be able to start rehab when the pins are removed, and in the meantime will travel with the team and remain a fixture in the Orioles' dugout.

"Nicky's one of the most, in a nice way, miserable DL guys I've ever had," manager Buck Showalter said. "And it will be tough on him, but it will be even tougher on him if he wasn't there. It's great for everybody, because we are kind of feeding off the idea that we are trying to accomplish the playoff picture, so Nick had the potential to return to us. You know, it's a long shot for him to be able to make that physically. But one of the things we learned here is Nick is one of our quicker healers physically."

Markakis joked with Showalter that part of his plan involved drinking a lot of milk to help his bones, and he smiled when the idea of possibly cajoling his manager into letting him pinch-run came up.

"It's going to be tough, but it's going to be fun at the same time," Markakis said of staying around his teammates. "Once you're around guys for eight months, the same guys every day, you bond together and you're here for each other. I'll be with them. It will be just as much as any other day other than not playing. I'll still be in the dugout supporting them and rooting them on."

Prospects, rehabbing vets in Instructional League

BALTIMORE -- Troy Patton (right ankle sprain) and Jim Thome (herniated disk in his neck) are progressing along in their respective rehab regimens, and manager Buck Showalter said the pair of Orioles are expected soon to play in games in this fall's instructional league.

The fall league -- which kicks off Sunday -- runs until Oct. 11 with games against the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox. The Orioles have 52 active players on their roster, including top pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman and a slew of other recent draftees and high draft picks. The organization's breakdown is 31 pitchers, eight infielders, eight outfielders, five catchers and seven players on rehab, including big league pitchers Stu Pomeranz and Tsuyoshi Wada, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

Thome could take swings in a game as early as the end of the week, while Patton will probably throw early next week, according to Showalter.

"That's another great thing about having [instructional league]: If your team is in the playoffs, you got a place to rehab," said Showalter, who has been an advocate of the Orioles playing games in the newly created fall league. "There's always that area between the end of the season if your teams aren't in the playoffs in the Minor Leagues or instructional league where you don't have a place for a guy to pitch or take at-bats.

"Kind of wish the start to Arizona Fall League was earlier so you would have a place to do that. The response to that is, get your Minor League teams in the playoffs and you won't have an issue."

The Orioles complete roster as of Wednesday afternoon includes: pitchers Bundy, Gausman, Wilmer Aquino, Tim Berry, Park Bridwell, Miguel Chalas, Zach Davies, Dioni Dominuez, Gene Escat, Miguel Garcia, Kevin Grendell, Juan Guzman, Josh Hader, Devin Jones, Mike Joseph, Branden Kline, Yi-Hsiang Lin, Wiliams Louico, Sean McAdams, Rafael Moreno, Jose Nivar, Elias Pinales, Jake Pintar, Matthew Price, Luc Rennie, Jorge Rivera, Eduardo Rodriguez, Lex Rutledge, Janser Severino, Brady Wager and Tommy Windgardner; catchers Sam Kimmel, Joe Oliveira, Joe Russell, Steel Sawyer and Brian Ward; infielders Torsten Boss, Antony Caronia, Joe Hutter, Ty Kelly, Ronarsy Ledesa, Adrian Marin, Michael Ohlman, and Hector Veloz; outfielders Roderick Bernadna, Glynn Davis, Gregory Lorenzo, John Ruettiger, Henry Urrutia, Yariel Vargas, Anthony Vega and Brenden Webb.

Joining Wada and Pomeranz among the rehabbing group are Nicky Delmonico, Matt Hobgood, Austin Knight, Trent Mummey and Ashur Tolliver.