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08/26/12 2:40 PM ET

O's target Sept. 6 for potential Hammel return

BALTIMORE -- An Orioles starting rotation that has been in flux for most of the season is slowly coming together with Sunday's trade for Joe Saunders and news that right-hander Jason Hammel could make his first start off the disabled list on Sept. 6.

Hammel threw a 40-pitch simulated game with no issues earlier in the week and is set to throw another simulated game on Monday that could be his final step before going on a rehab assignment.

"If we get through those two scenarios, the sim game and then the five-inning stint in [Class A] Frederick, he will either be an option for us on the 6th or pitch another rehab," manager Buck Showalter said of Hammel, who has been recovering from right knee surgery since mid-July. "And that [possible second rehab] would probably be for one of the teams that are in the playoffs in the Minor Leagues. That's one of the benefits of having teams in the playoffs, you've got a place for them to pitch. Otherwise, we'd have to invent a game."

The Orioles are cautiously optimistic Hammel's rehab won't come to that and the 29-year-old will be taking the mound against the Yankees instead. Despite dealing with knee soreness for two months prior to getting the surgery, Hammel was the Orioles' best pitcher, leading the club in wins and strikeouts before hitting the DL. He has an 8-6 record with a 3.54 ERA.

"There's two other levels to go to, one in Frederick where it counts, and then here," Showalter said. "The best case scenario would be to take him after Frederick, but there's a lot of bridges to cross there, which means he'd be a six-inning pitcher."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.