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08/22/12 8:44 PM ET

Orioles optimistic after Betemit's pain-free day

ARLINGTON -- Wilson Betemit had his first pain-free day on Tuesday since going on the disabled list Aug. 16, and that had manager Buck Showalter suddenly more optimistic about whether the infielder could make it back at the end of the month.

Betemit will start the same rehab program as first baseman Jim Thome (herniated disk in neck) in Sarasota, Fla., starting Thursday. Both players will start swinging off a tee and in the cages Thursday and could be ready to start a rehab assignment at the start of next week.

"He had a good day," Showalter said of Betemit. "He's going to start the same offensive progression as Jimmy is."

Showalter was far from optimistic about Betemit's progress Tuesday, but that changed with a positive report from the training staff on Wednesday.

Baltimore looks to keep Chen, Gonzalez fresh

ARLINGTON -- The Orioles moved back the starts of Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez on Wednesday, setting up the rotation where they'll pitch back-to-back to open a home series against the White Sox on Monday and Tuesday.

Left-hander Zach Britton will start Friday's first game of the homestand against the Toronto Blue Jays, getting his normal rest with Thursday's off-day. Right-hander Chris Tillman, who beat Texas on Tuesday night, will take his regular turn Sunday against the Jays. Showalter said he is still undecided on Saturday's starter.

Chen and Gonzalez will get two extra days between starts. Chen pitched Sunday in a 7-5 victory over Detroit, giving up five runs in the first inning. Gonzalez went five innings in a 5-1 loss to the Rangers on Monday night.

Showalter said he factored in several things before making the decision, including their numbers in their recent start and possible arm fatigue late in the season, plus an eye-ball test.

"We want to freshen them up a little," Showalter said. "We've been trying to be protective like we have all year long. Try to get ahead of anything that might come up. They're both fine."

Steve Johnson, the Orioles' current long man out of the bullpen, will likely get the start Saturday, even if he was needed for a few innings Wednesday against the Rangers.

Consistency key for Orioles' McLouth

ARLINGTON -- Nate McLouth said there's no secret behind him hitting his first home run since July 11, 2011, a 398-foot rocket into the right-field seats in Tuesday's 5-3 victory against the Rangers.

"I'm getting more consistent playing time," McLouth said. "I'm getting more confident with each at-bat, and I'm getting more confident with my swing."

McLouth hit 46 home runs in 2008-09 for Pittsburgh, so it isn't as if the 5-11, 180-pound outfielder hasn't hit for power.

"He's got some pop now," manager Buck Showalter said.

McLouth made his 15th start Wednesday since having his contract purchased from Triple-A Norfolk on Aug. 1. He had four hits in his last 12 at-bats going into Wednesday's game.

"I can tell when I take a pitch," McLouth said. "When I'm on time, I'm in the proper position to hit. Everything clicks."

Worth noting

• Outfielder Nick Markakis continues to hit out of the leadoff spot for the Orioles. He is 8-for-19 on the current road trip with three doubles, and he is batting .331 in 38 games in the leadoff spot since returning from the disabled list on July 13. He has a .384 on-base average.

It helps that Markakis isn't a player with a huge ego, manager Buck Showalter said, and is someone willing to hit anywhere in the lineup.

"It's just another at-bat for him," Showalter said. "He's ready to hit when the game starts."

• Showalter said there is nothing new to report on left-hander Troy Patton, still recovering from a right ankle sprain.

• The Orioles' bullpen continues to not miss a beat. Orioles relievers have a combined 1.57 ERA in their last 57 1/3 innings.

• Closer Jim Johnson, who tied for the American League lead with his 38th save Tuesday night, has retired the side in order in seven of his last nine outings. Opponents are 3-for-30 against him in those nine games.

Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.