Former MIAA baseball star and major league pitcher Steve Johnson had a homecoming of sorts on Wednesday, when the 25-year-old right-hander tossed 2-1/3 innings for the IronBirds at Ripken Stadium.
Johnson, a graduate of the Brooklandville's St. Paul's School, who has gone 5-1 with in 17 appearances with the Baltimore Orioles over the last two seasons, pitched at the IronBirds' home field almost a decade ago, when, before starting the senior season of his sparkling high school career, he was selected to take part in the August 2004 AFLAC All-American Baseball Classic, which was played at Ripken Stadium. The Kingsville native, son of former Orioles pitcher and MASN broadcaster Dave Johnson, was the only local player of the 40 high school seniors picked that year.
The following spring, Johnson wrapped up his career at St. Paul's with a 34-6 record, 331 strikeouts, a .356 batting average and state-record totals of doubles (41) and runs (147). Picked in the 13th round for the 2005 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Johnson spent four seasons in the West Coast club's farm system before coming to the Orioles organization via a trade in 2009. Three years later, he made his major-league debut on July 15, 2012 with a two-inning relief appearance against the Detroit Tigers. Johnson finished the 2012 campaign with a 4-0 mark, helping the Orioles down the stretch of their first post-season run in 15 years.
Johnson ended up back at Ripken Stadium on Wednesday as part of a rehab assignment. He has been on the Orioles' disabled list since June 6, after he strained an abdominal muscle. Prior to tossing his first professional pitch in Aberdeen on Wednesday, Johnson threw two innings with the Gulf Coast League Orioles.
In Wednesday's appearance, Johnson retired the first two hitters he saw on groundouts, surrendered a home run to center field, then got out of the inning with a strikeout. In the second inning, Johnson recorded three more strikeouts and allowed a base hit to left. Johnson was pulled after retiring one hitter and allowing two men to reach base in the third.
As a player with the St. Paul's squad, Johnson helped to win two MIAA "A" Conference baseball titles, which came in back-to-back years during his freshman and sophomore seasons. A four-year varsity starter, he was an all Baltimore-Metro First-Team selection each season of his career.
As of Thursday, the Orioles had not announced whether Johnson would make any further appearances with the IronBirds.