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

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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.

Padres sign Jordan Lyles

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The Padres announced on Sunday that the club signed pitcher Jordan Lyles to a one-year major league contract with a club option for 2019. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Lyles will earn $750,000 in 2018. Pitcher Travis Wood was designated for assignment to create room on the 40-man roster for Lyles.

Lyles, 27, had miserable results between the Rockies and Padres last season, compiling an aggregate 7.75 ERA with a 55/22 K/BB ratio over 69 2/3 innings. While he specifically gave up 24 earned runs in 23 innings across five starts with the Padres, it was a small sample. A full season at the pitcher-friendly Petco Park, as opposed to Colorado’s Coors Field, might help revitalize his career.

Wood, 30, went to the Padres at the non-waiver trade deadline from the Royals this past season. Overall, the lefty posted an aggregate 6.80 ERA with a 65/45 K/BB ratio in 94 innings. He’ll earn $6.5 million this season and has an $8 million mutual option with a $1 million buyout for 2019. So, the Padres are just eating $7.5 million minus the league minimum, assuming Wood latches on elsewhere.