Hammel to undergo knee surgery, hopes to return in 3-4 weeks


BALTIMORE — Already admitting Saturday he was leaning toward having surgery on his sore right knee, Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel confirmed Sunday he would undergo a procedure to remove a piece of loose cartilage.

The right-hander was placed on the 15-day disabled list after the loose cartilage that’s bothered him all season moved into the joint while delivering a pitch in the fourth inning of Friday’s loss to the Detroit Tigers. Triple-A Norfolk pitcher Steve Johnson was recalled to take Hammel’s place on the 25-man roster prior to Sunday’s game.

“We’re going to go the surgery route,” said Hammel, who hopes to return in three to four weeks. “Obviously, it’s not what I want to do, but it’s what needs to be done. I can’t keep pitching on a bad leg and start doing things with my arm and hurting stuff there.”

Hammel is 8-6 with a 3.54 earned run average in 18 starts this season and has emerged as the club’s best starting pitcher after he was acquired from the Colorado Rockies in the Jeremy Guthrie trade shortly before the start of spring training.

While the 29-year-old hopes to return within a month, the Orioles want to be cautious in estimating when he’ll return to the mound. Manager Buck Showalter said Saturday that the surgery would likely allow Hammel to return by early September.

“It depends on who you talk to,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I’m not going to throw a blanket over [Hammel’s estimate of three to four weeks], a wet blanket. You can’t really tell until once you get in there and see if exactly what you thinks there is there.”

The surgery will be performed by team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens at Johns Hopkins Hospital on Monday.

With Hammel now on the disabled list, the Orioles are down to just one starter from their Opening Day rotation. Though Showalter would love to see his top starter return as soon as possible, he’ll prepare for more pessimistic scenarios and will hope to be surprised along the way.

“I think it’s smart for me personally to plan that way,” Showalter said. “If you get your birthday present early, [great]. I’d rather look at the worst case. I think I’ll have a better feel for it when Dr. Wilckens gets out of there and sees what he found.”

NOTES: Showalter confirmed Triple-A Norfolk pitcher Zach Britton will make the start in Minnesota on Tuesday. Wednesday’s starter remains in question, but Showalter ruled out left-hander Brian Matusz, who will pitch for Norfolk on Sunday. Right-hander Tommy Hunter would be pitching on regular rest on Wednesday and has emerged as the leading candidate to start in Hammel’s place against the Twins. If Johnson is not used in long relief in the series finale against Detroit, he could also be a candidate to start in Minnesota.

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