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Jason Hammel throws simulated game, could be available as soon as Saturday

Oct 1, 2012, 7:22 PM EDT

Jason Hammel Getty Getty Images

Nick Markakis is still at least three weeks away from returning from thumb surgery, but the Orioles could get one of their best starting pitchers back as soon as this weekend.

According to Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com, Jason Hammel threw 73 pitches over five innings today during a simulated game in Sarasota, Florida. He also fielded his position without incident. Barring any setbacks, he could be available to start in a possible ALDS game on Saturday.

Hammel has been sidelined since he aggravated his surgically-repaired right knee on September 11. The 29-year-old right-hander has a 3.43 ERA and 113/42 K/BB ratio in 118 innings over 20 starts this year.

In another piece of good news for the O’s, Wilson Betemit had the splint removed from his right wrist and could begin swinging a bat within 5-7 days.

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