Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/16/12

Each week since the team's hot start this spring, analysts have talked about how whatever lay before the Baltimore Orioles was the next challenge.

Sunday, the Orioles were hit with arguably their biggest challenge of the season.

Right-hander Jason Hammel will miss about four weeks following Monday's scheduled arthroscopic surgery on his ailing right knee. Hammel has battled discomfort and inflammation in the knee all season.

Friday, while pitching, he felt a pop.

Sunday, with the news of his trip to the disabled list, the Orioles felt an acute discomfort, too.

That pain is the sudden reaction to the news that they would be without their newfound ace, who had a breakout first half in his first season with the Orioles.

Now, how the club responds may define the season.

The injury leaves a gigantic hole in the rotation, one that will remain through the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. If the Orioles can remain competitive and within range of a playoff spot up to the deadline, the opening would beg for the front office to acquire help.

The challenge now is for the young starters -- Chris Tillman, Zach Britton and the like -- to keep the club in the hunt.

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