Mike Gonzalez was supposed to be a lockdown closer for the Orioles in a season where the club chased .500.
Unfortunately, Gonzalez allowed four runs in two innings then promptly went on the disabled list with a left shoulder strain. He began a rehab assignment in late June but showed decreased velocity. That velocity has picked up as Gonzalez goes through the rehab assignment and now has a cumulative 4.26 ERA in 6 1/3 innings across three levels of the farm system.
MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli reports that Gonzalez will make three more rehab starts before consideration is given to activating the lefty. He will pitch Tuesday and then back-to-back on Friday and Saturday. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz previously said Gonzalez would not be activated until after the three-day All-Star break which starts Monday.
That leaves Gonzalez in perfect shape to join Baltimore Friday to host the Blue Jays.
In other injury news, the Orioles plan to activate outfielder Felix Pie from the disabled list. Pie was quite unlucky in suffering a back injury in mid-April because he would have received a ton of playing time ahead of Garrett Atkins and Nolan Reimold, neither of which are no longer on the major-league squad. Unfortunately, the Orioles brought up Corey Patterson who has been contributing to the team, so now Pie will have to battle for playing time in the outfield as well as scrap for at-bats at DH.
A former top Cubs prospect, Pie was hitting .400 (8-for-20) on the season and contributed a .266/.326/.437 line in 2009. Just 25, the potential is there for Pie to emerge as Baltimore's long-term left fielder over the second half.
Another top prospect for Baltimore, third baseman Josh Bell, left Sunday's game against Boston with leg cramps. While not in the lineup, he doesn't figure to miss any extended time although he may be the demotion of choice when Pie is activated.
-- Evan Brunell
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