Hammel ready for debut as member of the Orioles

Jason Hammel has made 115 major-league starts in his seven-season career — more than twice that of any other pitcher in the Orioles' 2012 rotation.

So Hammel's start Sunday against the Minnesota Twins is like any other game — to a point. It will be the 29-year-old right-hander's debut in an Orioles' uniform.

"Obviously, debuting for a team is always fun. I am sure there will be a little bit of nerves," said Hammel, who was part of the February trade that sent Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies. "But I've got nothing to prove. I'm just going to try and get deep in the ballgame."

Hammel had a solid spring, posting a 3.18 ERA in five games. He allowed 15 hits and five walks while striking out 17 batters in 17 innings.

"I was pretty pleased with my spring, worked on the things I thought I needed to work on and I felt pretty good about where I was at the end of spring," said Hammel, who was 7-13 with a 4.76 ERA in 32 games for the Rockies last year. "Now it is my job to make that translate into the season. I have been around long enough to where I understand how to fix my mistakes and do that in the game. So I am ready to go."

Hammel has little experience against the Twins, but he's been good when he has faced them. In three games (two starts) versus Minnesota in his career, Hammelis 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA. Now, the Orioles will see what Hammel can do away from Coors Field and with half of his starts coming at Camden Yards.

"There's some unknown, you watch a bunch of tape and talk to our scouts and a bunch of people," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Hammel, who spent his first three seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. "He's got a good hand. He can do some things with the ball. He's fit in real well from a team standpoint. Doesn't take himself too seriously. But he's at that stage, starting to understand what it takes to be successful, hopefully."

More than anything, Hammel said he hopes to continue what Opening Day starter Jake Arrieta began on Friday — an impressive quality start.

"It was huge. With what he did, we can really get things going the way we want them to be going," Hammel said. "He did it pretty loud and clear. We're here to play. We are not messing around."

Paulino gets start at DH

The second game into the season, and Showalter already had an interesting lineup. He inserted Ronny Paulino, the club's reserve catcher, into the designated hitter spot, against Minnesota left-hander Francisco Liriano.

Paulino, a right-handed hitter, is 1-for-3 lifetime against Liriano, but he's a .330 career hitter against lefties overall (he's a .246 hitter versus right-handers). Reserve Nick Johnson, who also has better splits against lefties, started at first base in his Orioles debut Saturday.

"I know that I can be used in different ways here and I need to be prepared," Paulino said. "I'm doing my work early to be ready every day. If I am not starting, I know I have to be ready during the game."

Using Paulino at DH created somewhat of a risk if starting catcher Matt Wieters gets hurt because moving Paulino to catcher would cause the Orioles to lose the DH for the rest of the game. Showalter, however, said he had a third option at catcher.

"We got another one, but it's a secret. Maybe to him, too," Showalter joked.

Wada progressing toward late April

Tsuyoshi Wada (elbow) threw a side session of 30 to 45 pitches on Saturday in Sarasota, Fla. He will pitch in extended spring training on Monday against the Minnesota Twins' minor-league camp in Fort Myers, Fla. and on April 14in Port Charlotte, Fla. against the Tampa Bay Rays camp. If all goes well, he'll likely go to a minor-league affiliate and pitch on April 19. After that, he could join the Orioles, perhaps around April 24.

"I'm not gonna get committed to it. He could come before that," Showalter said. "See what our needs are."

Showalter said he'd like for Wada to throw at least 90 pitches twice before the 31-year-old Japanese lefty makes his major-league debut. Whether he comes back as a starter or reliever, Showalter said, depends on how Wada is throwing and how the big-league rotation has fared at that point.

The booing of Gregg

Veteran reliever Kevin Gregg, who lost his closer's job last year, was booed during the Opening Day pre-game introductions at Camden Yards on Friday. Showalter said it was unfortunate, but added that he and Gregg understand it is part of the game.

"You never like to see anybody have that, but Kevin is an experienced guy. If it was a young guy, you'd feel a little more strongly about it," Showalter said. "Our fans, like a lot of places, are waiting to embrace you and to be real positive. And it is up to us to do the things that make them want to embrace us. We control that. And Kevin knows that."

Around the horn

Orioles' top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy retired all nine batters he faced, including six by strikeout, in his pro debut Friday for Class A Delmarva at Asheville. … Heading into Saturday, Jim Johnson has converted his last nine save opportunities. … On Friday, the Orioles and Twins combined to go 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. … Twins' Sunday starter Liam Hendriks has been scratched with food poisoning. He has been hospitalized and is expected to be released on Sunday morning. Right-hander Anthony Swarzak will start against the Orioles on Sunday afternoon. … The Orioles wore their orange jerseys on Saturday, which they will wear for every home Saturday this season.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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