The reports on Jason Hammel this off-season have been good ones.
Hammel, who earned manager Buck Showalter’s trust last season. didn’t win a game after June 22. But, Hammel was the pitcher Showalter turned to for Games 1 and 5 of the Division Series after missing three weeks with an injury to his right knee.
The knee started bothering Hammel in May, but he soldiered on. He thought the problems were behind him in June when he threw the Orioles’ only complete game of the season, a one-hitter in Atlanta. He followed that with an eight inning, 10 strikeout performance.
Then Hammel lost four in a row, and after he was pulledd from a game on July 13 when the knee starting aching too much, he needed surgery.
That cost him nearly two months. In his first start back, he felt great, but the second one wasn’t good. He had to leave that one in the fourth inning, and he didn’t pitch again until the Division Series.
Though the Orioles lost both games he pitched, his toughness impressed Showalter, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was next season’s Opening Day pitcher.
If the knee is strong next season, it’s an excellent sign for the Orioles.