After being traded in December because the Orioles didn’t want to spend an estimated $10 million in arbitration on a closer, Jim Johnson returned to Camden Yards on Friday wearing the green and gold of the Oakland Athletics.
“It's a little different. I mean, a lot of memories,” said Johnson, who was drafted by the Orioles in 2001, made his big league debut in 2006 and was a key member of the bullpen since 2008. “It's obviously different going into a different clubhouse. It's cool.”
Johnson came back Friday not as the A’s closer but as a struggling reliever who lost his closer role after blowing one save, losing two games and allowing seven runs over his first five outings. He has a 14.04 ERA at O.co Coliseum this year, and Oakland fans have been quick to berate the right-hander.
But he expected a warmer welcome in Baltimore, where he spent the first eight years of his major league career, led the big leagues in saves in consecutive seasons and was an All-Star in 2012.
“I'm sure that the fans here will be supportive, and I wouldn't expect anything [less],” he said before their game Friday. “They're great fans, and there's mutual respect.”
Johnson’s 6.26 ERA this season is by far his worst for any season in which he has spent significant time in the majors. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has plummeted, even as the reliever has shown signs of his old form after a disastrous April and early May.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who spoke briefly with his former closer before Friday’s game, said Johnson isn’t the type of player who asks for sympathy. But the manager empathized with Johnson, acknowledging his competitive personality.
“I know how much he cares, almost to a fault,” Showalter said. “I know how much he internalizes a lot of those things. I know it is tough on him. But I think he’s got so many close people [he has] been through the battles with in there that I’m sure they and we felt for him.”
Around the horn
Though Cruz will be the designated hitter Friday, Showalter said he was fine to play in the outfield, if needed. Cruz suffered from cramps during this week’s series against the Texas Rangers. … After a long night of travel, Showalter didn’t get into bed until 8:30 a.m. Friday. … Before the game, Showalter paid tribute to the 70th anniversary of D-Day, in which his father, Bill, participated. … Saturday morning at the Warehouse, the Orioles will hold a service to honor Monica Barlow, the late public relations director who died in February.