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05/23/08 7:49 PM ET

Loewen among O's progressing nicely

Lefty pleased with mound session; Ray, Baez coming along

ST. PETERSBURG -- Fresh off two straight losses in New York, the Orioles were dealt some much-needed good news prior to the series opener against the Rays. A trio of hurlers on the club's lengthy disabled list all reported to make positive strides in their respective rehab programs on Friday.

Adam Loewen, who was sent to the 15-day disabled list with a sore left elbow on April 25, threw his first mound session since the injury and was optimistic about his progress.

"It's been feeling great; it's like night and day than it was before," said the southpaw, who tossed 25 pitches (all fastballs) with no pain.

Loewen missed virtually all of last season with a stress fracture in his left elbow, and he had worked hard to get back on the mound before suffering his most recent setback. When he was placed on the DL, the lefty acknowledged he had spent the early parts of April pitching through various aches and pains and wanted to get back to full throttle.

His session on Friday appeared to be right on track, as Loewen was in good spirits and noted an increase in arm strength, a fact that was duly noted by pitching coach Rick Kranitz.

"He looks like he didn't even get hurt," Kranitz said. "Arm strength looked good. For his first time on the mound, [I'm] very encouraged. I think he's going to come [along] pretty fast now. Obviously, we will wait and see tomorrow to see how he feels, but he says he feels great."

That's encouraging news for the Orioles, who had high hopes for the young lefty in their starting rotation. In Loewen's absence, southpaw Garrett Olson has been inserted into the starting rotation, posting a 3-1 record and 5.19 ERA in five games.

The next step for Loewen will be several more extensive bullpen sessions, where he will begin to mix in his slider and other offspeed pitches, followed by a one-inning stint in an extended Spring Training game on June 4.

The timetable is a little fuzzier for Chris Ray. The right-hander had Tommy John elbow ligament reconstructive surgery last summer and has been progressing well enough to throw off the mound. Friday's mound session -- his third -- consisted of 30 pitches and, according to manager Dave Trembley, was "very impressive."

Ray said he was still hoping to return to pitch with the Orioles when the rosters expand in September, and said Friday's session was the biggest step of his rehab so far. The hurler reported to be pain free and said his release felt "free and easy," adding that he expects to begin a Minor League rehab assignment Aug. 1.

Also on the mend from Tommy John surgery is Danys Baez, who Trembley noted is about a month behind Ray and is still restricted to long-toss throwing.

Baez said he experienced some pain when initially throwing from 120 feet and had to be moved back to 90 feet, slowing his initial progression. The right-hander's session on Friday found him back at 120 feet, but Baez reported no pain during the 75-pitch session. There is no timetable set for his return, but Kranitz did note that Baez "looked better" as he progressed through each set of 25 pitches.

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.