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.

Yadier Molina ties record for the most games caught with one team

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Yadier Molina has two World Series rings, multiple Gold Gloves, Platinum Gloves, All-Star appearances and a Silver Slugger award. He now has an all-time record too.

The record: the most games caught with one team. Last night he caught his 1756th career game with the Cardinals, with ties him with Gabby Hartnett of the Cubs, who last caught in 1941 and set the record in 1940, his last season with Chicago. Molina will break the record next time he dons the tools of ignorance, likely tonight against the Phillies.

Given how badly catchers get beaten up — and Molina has taken a beating at times in his career — and given how well mastery of the position leads to a catcher earning journeyman status, as it were, it’s quite a thing to catch that many games for one team.

Given that Molina is under contract with the Cardinals for two more seasons and has stated his desire to retire a Cardinal many times, he’s likely to put that record so far out of reach that it’ll likely take at least another 78 years to break it, if indeed it is ever broken.