Ray on fast track after elbow surgery
O's right-hander set for Minor League rehab appearances
BALTIMORE -- When Chris Ray underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery a year ago, the Orioles were all but writing the right-hander off for all of the 2008 season. The team had conservative optimism for Ray's recovery, hoping not to further damage the right elbow of the pitcher who saved 33 games for it in 2006.
That recovery has progressed at an astounding rate, considering Ray's predicament just one year ago. Orioles manager Dave Trembley announced Tuesday that Ray's rehab program has progressed to the point where the 26-year-old will pitch one inning with Class A Frederick on Friday and another with Class A Aberdeen on Monday.
Whether Ray will pitch in the Major Leagues this season, though, still remains to be decided.
"I can't predict what's going to happen in four weeks," Trembley said. "I don't need to see him. I know who he is and what he is and how he's thrown, what kind of guy he is and what kind of stuff he's got. This is a tremendous credit to Chris Ray, and what he's done and how hard he's worked to get himself where he's at. He doesn't have to prove anything to me."
To this point, the furthest Ray has gone through the farm system has been the Gulf Coast League and Trembley has made it clear that he would prefer Ray not pitch in the big leagues at all in 2008, so as not to rush his recovery.
"The decision on what direction that will go will be determined on how he progresses in this program," Trembley said. "That'll be something that [president of baseball operations] Andy MacPhail, Chris Ray and our medical staff will come to grips with."
Ray is among three relievers who are working their way back from injury, the other two being right-hander Matt Albers, who is rehabbing a labrum tear in his pitching shoulder, and right-hander Greg Aquino, who is making his way back from a left hamstring strain.
Albers, who opted for rehab over season-ending surgery, has progressed to the point of throwing off a mound and will do so Thursday and Saturday in Sarasota, Fla., throwing 30 pitches off the mound to test out each of his pitches during the session.
The right-hander had thrown his fastball and changeup in sideline sessions last week, but has yet to test all of his pitches off a mound.
Aquino will follow Ray, throwing one inning with Frederick on Wednesday and one inning with Aberdeen on Friday.
Also working his way back onto the active roster is rookie center fielder Adam Jones. Jones, who has been out since Aug. 3 with a fracture in his left foot, received clearance from team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens on Monday to discontinue use of his crutches, and if all goes well, he will begin running later this week.
"He's going to play catch, he'll hit off a tee, he's off the crutches and he was on the bike yesterday," Trembley said. "I think he'll get cleared by Dr. Campbell, the foot specialist, and when he does, we'll increase his baseball activity. I wouldn't be surprised if by the end of the week he's out there with [first-base coach John Shelby], taking fly balls and ground balls and maybe in the [batting-practice] group."
The Orioles, though, will also be cautious with Jones, and Trembley reiterated that their rookie center fielder will not push the limits on what he can do until he has been cleared by the medical staff to do them.
Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.