ARLINGTON, Texas — Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday that he is open to going to a six-man rotation once left-hander Johan Santana becomes an option to help the club.
The Orioles added Santana to the 40-man roster Monday and placed him on the 15-day major league disabled list, just before he could have exercised an opt-out clause in the minor league deal he signed in March.
Santana, 35, will continue his rehabilitation process, making one more start in extended spring training this week before going on a minor league rehab assignment. He likely would make two starts for a minor league affiliate and could join the major league team around the time the Orioles open a three-game series on the road against the New York Yankees on June 20.
"We've been down a long road with him, probably longer for him personally," Showalter said. There's a lot of things that went on before he came to us. I've got a pretty good understanding of where he is, and the time frame we're talking about now. It's a lot more definitive. He's crossed over a lot of hurdles."
The Orioles' starting rotation had a 4.44 ERA through Monday, ranking 25th among baseball's 30 teams, but the starters entered Tuesday's game appearing to make a turn. Over the previous four games, Orioles starters had allowed just five runs over 242/3 innings, pitching to a 1.82 ERA.
And Showalter suggested Tuesday that he might not need to bump an existing starter from the rotation when Santana is ready.
"He's not competing against the people up here. He's competing [on] if he's good enough to compete against [other teams]," Showalter said. "I don't think there will be anything difficult about it. … I've been hinting at going to six starters anyway. It's easy to solve. It's not a problem. Any time there's good pitchers available, I'm in, especially with his pedigree."
Going to a six-man rotation could also benefit Santana, who was a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner in 2004 and 2006 with the Minnesota Twins.
It would allow Santana extra rest as his makes a comeback from a second shoulder surgery in a three-year span. Santana hasn't pitched in a major league game since Aug. 17, 2012.
Hunter happy with rehab progress: Right-hander Tommy Hunter, currently on the 15-day disabled list with a left groin strain, threw a side session Tuesday in Texas in front of Orioles pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti — his second off a full mound — and also did some light pitcher's fielding practice.
Hunter will either throw another side session Thursday or start a minor league rehab assignment that day, Showalter said.
Hunter said he's pleased with his progress. Even though he won't be ready to come off the disabled list when he's eligible Thursday, he could rejoin the club as soon as Monday.
"Yeah, I am actually," Hunter said. "Four days ago, I think, was the last time I felt it. Five days ago. That's pretty awesome. It's pretty cool not feeling it, cause it [stinks] when you do."
Hunter has spent time on the disabled list for a groin injury in the past. He missed the first 82 games of the 2011 season with a right groin strain, so he said that has helped him to know what the recovery is like.
"I kind of knew," Hunter said. "It's the same treatment every time. There were some times [in the past] on the fourth or fifth day that I had to stop because you can feel it. You know it's not right. Something's not right."
Wieters extends throwing session: On Tuesday, catcher Matt Wieters had his third throwing session since being shut down last month.
And this time, he extended both distance and repetitions. Wieters made 10 throws from 70 feet, another 10 from 90 feet and 10 more from 100 feet, throwing to bench coach John Russell.
"Anytime I feel like I can go further, and feel better doing it, is a good thing," Wieters said. "Just going to keep trying to do that. The big thing at this point is to try to not have any setbacks and keep moving forward."
The Orioles still have a July 1 deadline of deciding whether Wieters can play this season or have surgery on his elbow. Showalter said previously that the team would begin getting a better idea after four or five sessions.
"[It's] better," Wieters said. "More distance. We are trying to get to a point where we can really see where we are at. Each day I have thrown, I have gotten more strength and [been] able to do more throws before fatigue will set in."
Wieters will take Wednesday off and throw again Thursday, likely continuing to extend his distance and number of throws. Showalter said the longest distance he will throw in his progression is 120 feet.
Bundy throws again in Florida:
Top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy threw four innings in an extended spring training game in Sarasota, Fla., on Tuesday.
Bundy, 21, stayed in the game to get a 13th out to meet his pitch count. he threw 56 pitches, allowing just one hit and striking out six. He induced four groundouts and three flyouts.
Bundy, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery last June, is set to make one more start in extended spring training before he could report to the Orioles' short-season rookie affiliate in Aberdeen.
The IronBirds' season begins June 13 at Hudson Valley. Aberdeen's first game at home is June 20.
Around the horn:
The Toronto Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion won the American League Player of the Month award over the Orioles' Nelson Cruz, who hit .339 with 13 homers and 27 RBIs in 30 games in May. … Catcher Caleb Joseph made his third straight start against an opposing left-hander. … Double-A Bowie first baseman Christian Walker and Low-A Delmarva right-hander Hunter Harvey were named the organization's player and pitcher of the month, respectively. … Harvey and four other Delmarva teammates — third baseman Drew Dosch, outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, and right-handed pitchers Sebastian Vader and Jimmy Yacabonis — were named to the South Atlantic League All-Star Game. Harvey will be the starting pitcher for the Northern Division team.