ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel came out of his 73-pitch simulated game with the team's instructional league with his surgically reconstructed right knee feeling good, he and was given the green light to pitch in the postseason.
"It feels as good as it's going to feel until the season's over," Hammel said before Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays. "I'm not thinking about it. There's minimal discomfort, it's not something I can't handle."
Hammel, who aggravated the knee Sept. 11, would be available to start a potential American League Division Series opener on either Saturday or Sunday.
"It shows a lot of faith and a lot of trust from the manager's standpoint," Hammel said. "I know it's not easy for a guy who's pretty much been on a three-month vacation to really know how sharp he's been. The only thing I can say is that I've stayed on top of my arm, my arm strength is good. It's only been the knee that's been a problem. I've keep myself sharp in other ways mentally and physically just to make sure that if this time every arrived I'd be ready to go. That's how I feel."
Showalter had said that if Hammel came out of that instructional league start feeling well, he'd be a candidate to pitch on regular rest, which would be Saturday. Hammel, who was the Orioles' top pitcher in the first half of the season as he won eight of his first 10 decisions, said he hasn't been told whether he would be on a pitch count.
"I would assume that if you would trust me to start, if I am starting, there wouldn't be a pitch count because it's a 25-man roster and you need those extra guys in the pen so you have to expect a guy to go deep for that important a game," Hammel said."I would think no pitch count until I was told othewise."
Hammel missed eight weeks recovering from arthroscopic surgery on the same knee and reaggravated it in his second start back.
Gausman eyeing 2013 arrival
Orioles first-round draft pick Kevin Gausman threw a bullpen session before Tuesday's game, an appearance that was really an introduction to the team's major league staff, which had never seen him pitch.
Seeing 2011 first-rounder Dylan Bundy ending his first pro season in the majors, Gausman said he's focused on getting to the majors by the end of the 2013 season.
"In my mind, I'd like to think so," Gausman said. "That's one of my goals is to be here next year and be able to contribute as much as I can. That's one of my goals, but that's not up to me, so I'm just going to go out there and just compete and try to win ballgames and everything else, let the cards fall where they may."
Gausman has made six pro starts, his final one coming with Double-A Bowie in the Eastern League playoffs. He was 0-1 with a 3.00 between rookie league Aberdeen, High-A Frederick and Bowie.
Gausman, who has been pitching in instructional league and has two more starts before he shuts down for the year, said he's learned a lot in his first pro season.
"Really just the little things," Gausman said. "Being more consistent with my slider and my breaking pitches, really in every aspect of the game, kind of maturing and learning the things in pro ball that are a lot different that college baseball and the speed of the game just kind of picks up every level you go up."
The Orioles still don't know where they will open the postseason, but they're starting to work through how they will select their 25-man playoff roster.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said some players who don't make the roster will be sent to Sarasota, Fla., less than an hour away from St. Petersburg, to work in instructional league. There will be a group of players who don't make the roster for the wild-card game that will continue to travel with the team.
"This team lives in reality," Showalter said. "They know in a day or so they could be right there with us."
Postseason rosters can be reset after every playoff round, even after the one-game wild-card round.
Buck gets a gift
With the Rays being eliminated from the playoffs with Oakland's win early Tuesday morning, Tampa manager Joe Maddon, a noted wine connoisseur, sent Showalter a bottle of 2007 Spring Valley Vineyards Uriah along with a congratulatory note for making the playoffs.
"It's actually a merlot blend, but it's outstanding," Maddon said. "It's one of my faves."
Around the horn
Right-hander Chris Tillman will pitch today’s regular-season finale, Showalter said after the game. ... Infielder Wilson Betemit has begun doing stretching exercises and light weight work with his injured right wrist. He will be able to begin a hitting progression within the week. … Right-hander Steve Johnson (knee strain) was slated to test the knee in a bullpen session Tuesday.
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