BALTIMORE — Already reeling from the loss of right fielder Nick Markakis for the rest of the regular season, the Orioles suffered another potential loss of significance Tuesday when starting pitcher Jason Hammel exited the game with a right knee injury.
Landing awkwardly after delivering a first-pitch ball to Matt Joyce with two outs in the top of the fourth inning, Hammel momentarily met with trainer Richie Bancells and manager Buck Showalter before walking to the dugout. He will be examined by team physician Dr. John Wilckens on Wednesday and undergo an MRI Thursday.
“It felt exactly the same as it did in the game against Detroit [on July 13],” said Hammel, who felt the pain in the knee on the second pitch to the previous batter Evan Longoria. “It was just one pitch and then after the pitch, I couldn’t load on the leg again. Any time I tried to transfer the weight towards the plate, it was a very sharp pain in the knee in the same spot.”
Hammel underwent surgery in mid-July after dealing with a loose piece of cartilage in the knee for much of the first half of the season. The procedure sidelined the right-handed pitcher until last Thursday when he made his first start for the Orioles in nearly two months.
For now, Hammel hopes the pain was simply related to scar tissue built up from the surgery, which doctors said was a possibility. The good news was the starting pitcher was not experiencing any swelling when he talked to reporters following the 9-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I don’t want to be done yet,” said Hammel when asked with the possibility that he might not pitch again this season. “If there is any way I can pitch, I’m going to.”
The Orioles’ best starting pitcher in the first half of the season, Hammel was a “Final Vote” selection for the 2012 All-Star Game but did not win the fan vote. He entered Tuesday’s game with an 8-6 record and a 3.46 earned run average as the Orioles were counting on him to provide a major boost to their pitching staff in the final three weeks of the regular season.
Showalter elected to take a wait-and-see approach following Tuesday’s game.
“We’ll see what tomorrow brings in the evaluation,” Showalter said. “He’s a little down right now about it, but hopefully we’ll get some good news tomorrow.”