BALTIMORE (AP) -The Orioles finally got starting catcher Ramon Hernandez back Thursday, activating him from the disabled list before facing the Boston Red Sox.
Hernandez was placed on the 15-day disabled list on opening day with a strained muscle in his rib cage. He played for Class A Frederick on Tuesday and Wednesday in a rehabilitation assignment before declaring himself ready to return.
``I asked if he wanted to go or not, and he said he was ready,'' Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said. ``There's no reason to hold him back.''
Paul Bako and Alberto Castillo handled the catching duties while Hernandez was out.
``The two guys back there did a great job backing up, but when you're missing your starting catcher it's a little different,'' Perlozzo said. ``Catching, throwing, and it's a big bat.''
Hernandez batted .275 last season and set career highs in homers (23), RBIs (91), doubles (29) and games (144). He delayed his return because he felt a twinge while swinging, but that problem appeared to be behind him Thursday.
After taking batting practice, Hernandez said, ``Taking BP I don't feel nothing, so why wait longer, you know what I mean? Just come out and play, that's the only way to see if it's totally right or not. Playing every day is the only way I'm gonna figure it out, 'cause it's a lot of intensity and (that is) totally the test.''
Hernandez batted ninth as the starting catcher.
To make room for Hernandez on the roster, the Orioles designated Castillo for assignment. Castillo, obtained from Boston in March for outfielder Cory Keylor, was hitting .174 in eight games.
``I'd like to see us keep him,'' Perlozzo said. ``Great energy guy, and he handled the pitchers well.''
Bako is batting .238 with one homer and five RBIs. His biggest contribution offensively was a three-run homer in a 6-4 win over the New York Yankees on April 8.
``He did very well. Our pitchers like throwing to him, he calls a good game, he can throw,'' Perlozzo said. ``I know his average wasn't as good as you like, but at the same time he got us some big hits.''
Bako signed up with Baltimore to be Hernandez's backup, and now that's his role.
``I was just thankful for the opportunity to play. It was a lot of fun,'' Bako said. ``I had a great time catching all our pitchers and helping the club get off to a decent start. But at the same time, Ramon is the guy. It's a no-brainer type of situation.''

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