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10/01/12 8:05 PM ET

Hammel could return to start an ALDS game

ST. PETERSBURG -- Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel threw a five-inning simulated game Monday afternoon with no problems in regards to his right knee, and the 30-year-old is a candidate to start a postseason game for the club later this week.

"I'll commit to that," Showalter said of Hammel's availability later in the week. "That was real encouraging. [We will] see how he feels tomorrow. [The] next step is if he comes through that tomorrow, no real limitations on his next step."

Hammel threw 73 pitches, with pitching coach Rick Adair in attendance, at the club's spring facility in Sarasota, Fla., and he wouldn't be eligible to start until at least Saturday. Still, the news is good for the Orioles given the club's uncertain rotation and the fact that Hammel -- who went 8-6 with a 3.43 ERA -- was their best starter despite battling right knee discomfort.

"Rick put the gun on him the last couple days ... went well," Showalter said. "Rick is hard to impress, he was impressed with his stuff, his arm stuff and everything. About as good as could be expected. It was smoking out. Got a little tired at the end, but it's been a while."

The Orioles clinched a postseason spot Sunday night and entered Monday tied for the American League East lead with the Yankees.

Markakis out for at least another three weeks

ST. PETERSBURG -- Nick Markakis will not have the pins removed from his left thumb for at least another week, putting the Orioles outfielder's return at a minimum of three weeks and contingent on the club getting deep into the postseason.

"Probably get them out next Tuesday or Monday," said Markakis, who suffered the break on Yankees ace CC Sabathia's fastball on Sept. 8. "It was crushed too bad in there, had a lot of pieces here and there. Probably on a clean break, they could come out today. My situation is a little different, so they want to keep it in for another week."

Once the pins are removed, Markakis' thumb will be put in a splint for another two weeks, and manager Buck Showalter said the emphasis is on making sure the injury heals for the long term.

Asked if he sensed any disappointment by Markakis, Showalter said, "He doesn't wear his emotions on his sleeve. We've talked a little bit. I think from the get-go [head athletic trainer Richie Bancells] and the doctors have been very forthright about his [recovery].

"We know three weeks from now what's happening in baseball. So, keep plugging to get to that goal. Everybody would love that individually for Nick and for the organization. But a lot of bridges to cross, starting tonight."

The Orioles clinched a playoff berth on Sunday night and a deep postseason run could open the door for Markakis -- the longest-tenured Oriole behind Brian Roberts -- to make a return. The club's Opening Day right fielder, Markakis is hitting .298/.363/.471 in 104 games.


• Wilson Betemit had the splint on his right wrist removed and he is five to seven days away from picking up a bat to swing, which is certainly good news for the Orioles.

• Miguel Gonzalez is listed as Tuesday's starter with TBD on Wednesday. It could be Chris Tillman, or the team could hold off on using Tillman until later in the week depending on where they are in the race for the AL East title. Showalter said there are four options to make that start right now.

• Pitcher Steve Johnson (left knee) is day to day with a mild sprain after an MRI done Monday morning came back negative.

• Tsuyoshi Wada, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, is in the clubhouse. Second baseman Roberts, who is sidelined with season-ending hip surgery, was also at Tropicana Field.

• Rookie outfielder L.J. Hoes will report to the team's instructional league later this week before going to the Arizona Fall League. Hoes was with the team through Sunday's game in Baltimore.

• The Orioles-Red Sox series from the weekend will be featured on NBC Sports, "Caught Looking" on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.

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.