ARLINGTON -- Could the Orioles go to a six-man rotation when Johan Santana is ready?
Manager Buck Showalter left open the possibility on Tuesday.
"I could if I wanted to," Showalter said. "Not saying I'm going to. Could. That part of it, he's not competing against the people up here [current Orioles starters]. He's competing to be good enough to compete against [Orioles opponents]."
Santana opted to stay in the organization and not exercise the opt-out clause in his contract, with the Orioles announcing on Monday that they had selected his contract -- adding him to the 40-man roster -- while the lefty continues to rehab. Santana is expected to make one rehab start at Double-A and then another at Triple-A and could be an option by mid-June.
"I don't think there will be anything difficult about it," Showalter said of finding room for Santana in the rotation. "I've been hinting around at going to six starters anyway. It's not a problem. Anytime there are good pitchers available, especially with his pedigree."
Cruz returns to lineup, Rangers' ballpark
ARLINGTON -- Nelson Cruz was back in the Orioles' starting lineup on Tuesday night, facing his former Rangers teammates, batting third and playing left field.
Cruz, who got hit in the left hand on Sunday in Houston and left the game, said he's fine after getting a bunch of treatment during Monday's off-day. As for what he hopes the Rangers fans' reactions are when he steps to the plate, Cruz said: "Love. Hopefully. You always try to expect the best, so hopefully I hear some cheers."
Cruz, who declined Texas' qualifying offer this winter to become a free agent, has flourished for the O's and is leading the Majors in homers (20) and RBIs (52) entering Tuesday. He said the biggest test for his hand was gripping the bat with no pain.
"[We will] watch him in BP a little bit," manager Buck Showalter said, "but all indications are he feels fine."
Hunter looks good in side session
ARLINGTON -- Orioles closer Tommy Hunter, who is on the disabled list with a left groin strain, threw a bullpen prior Tuesday night's game against the Rangers as he continues to make impressive strides toward a return.
"That went well," manager Buck Showalter said of Hunter's side session in front of pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti. "Did a little light PFP [pitchers fielding practice]. The plan is to do some more PFP tomorrow and see if he will go out and pitch on Thursday or if he needs another side day. That's kind of where we are in the decision process."
Hunter, who has dealt with the same injury several times in the past, said he was happy with the way he bounced back this time around and he could be an option for the O's early next week.
"Yeah, I am actually [encouraged]," said Hunter, who has missed up to a month with a groin injury earlier in his career. "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."
The Orioles placed Hunter on the disabled list on May 22.
Wieters continues making steady progress
ARLINGTON -- Orioles catcher Matt Wieters threw on Tuesday for the third time since hitting the disabled list on May 11, and he continues to be encouraged with his rehab progress.
"We are trying to get to a point where we can really see where we are at," said Wieters, who made 30 throws from distances up to 100 feet on Tuesday. "Each day I have thrown I have gotten more strength and am able to do more throws before fatigue will set in."
Wieters, who is trying to avoid season-ending surgery on his right elbow, said he will stick with an every-other-day schedule at least for this week, and he didn't want to project anything beyond that.
"We are looking to keep trying to get stronger, keep trying to get longer," said Wieters, who will work up to 120 feet. "When it's ready, it's ready. And we will know when we get there. But right now, it's just about building strength."
Wieters hasn't played in a game for the Orioles since May 10 and last started at catcher on May 4. Since the biggest issue with the injury is throwing, he's concentrated on that progression and hasn't been taking any swings. Wieters had some soreness the first time out, which was to be expected, and both he and manager Buck Showalter said it's a "good soreness" and mostly from the previous inactivity.
Overall, the Orioles are cautiously optimistic with Wieters' progress.
"Anytime I feel like I can go further and feel better doing it is a good thing," he 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 have named Class A Delmarva's Hunter Harvey the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Month for May. Double-A Bowie first baseman Christian Walker was named the Minor League Player of the Month. Harvey, a right-hander, was the O's first-round pick in last year's Draft.
• Dylan Bundy threw four-plus innings on Tuesday, and manager Buck Showalter said he will throw one more time in extended spring training before joining the O's short-season affiliate in Aberdeen. The IronBirds' first game is June 13.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.