By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun
6:58 PM EDT, March 22, 2013
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla.
For three of the four innings he pitched Friday, right-hander Steve Johnson showed why he remains in consideration to be the Orioles' fifth starter.
The other inning, though, the 25-year-old St. Paul's alum would like to forget.
In the Orioles' 6-3 road win against a Tampa Bay Rays split squad, Johnson retired the first eight batters he faced before temporarily losing control and walking the bases loaded in the third inning. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria followed with a sinking liner that left fielder Trayvon Robinson couldn't handle, resulting in a three-run double.
Johnson rebounded to set down four of the next five batters and salvage his outing.
"It's just very frustrating," said Johnson, who allowed three runs, two hits and three walks in four innings. "I go from having a pretty decent outing, cruising along, and three batters kind of screw it up."
Johnson is in competition with Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Zach Britton, among others, for the club's final rotation spot. Arrieta threw six scoreless innings on Thursday night, upping the ante for the others. So any struggles from Johnson are noticeable.
"You want to have good outings all the time, and especially now," Johnson said. "It's kind of crunch time. You don't want to have anything happen like this, especially a couple batters in a row."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter somewhat dismissed Johnson's third inning, saying: "Everything was good except that one inning."
"That was uncharacteristic for him. He may do it for a hitter, but he [usually] gets right back in sync," Showalter said. "Yeah, it wasn't good for him, but he's pitched well. Throw that inning out and he was pretty good."
Johnson, who has a 3.46 ERA in 13 innings during spring training, doesn't know when he'll pitch next, but he'd like to get another start to make up for Friday's third inning.
"Hopefully, I get another outing and show that was a fluke," he said.
Schoop leads Orioles to win
The Orioles' top position prospect, Jonathan Schoop, had been away for most of the spring while representing the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. He returned Wednesday and, on Friday, he led the Orioles to the victory.
The 21-year-old started at shortstop and had a hit in each of his first three at-bats, including a RBI single in the fifth and a two-run home run in the sixth against Rays starter Jeff Niemann. He drove in three runs and scored twice.
"He was excited to play," Showalter said of Schoop. "I walked up to him [Thursday] night in the dugout and I said, 'How many more days do you think you'll need before you'll be ready to play?' And he goes, 'I'm ready to play right now.' … He was good. I'm happy for him."
Steve Pearce also homered Friday — his fifth of the spring — as the Orioles improved to 16-6-3 in Grapefruit League action.
Blue Jays claim Redmond
The Toronto Blue Jays claimed right-hander Todd Redmond, whom the Orioles optioned to Triple-A Norfolk last week, off waivers Friday after the Orioles attempted to take him off their 40-man roster.
Redmond, 27, was 2-0 with a 5.63 ERA in five games this spring with the Orioles. He allowed five earned runs and eight hits with eight strikeouts and four walks in eight innings. The club had claimed him off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds in February.
The Blue Jays sent Redmond, who has appeared in one major league game in his career, to Triple-A Buffalo. The Orioles now have 39 players on their 40-man roster.
Jurrjens can't opt out until June
Right-hander Jair Jurrjens, who technically is in the mix for the final spot in the rotation but is unlikely to make the 25-man roster unless several other pitchers suffer injuries, pitched his best game of the spring. He entered in the fifth inning in relief of Johnson and pitched the rest of the game.
Jurrjens allowed just two hits and no walks while striking out three in five scoreless innings for the win.
"That's as good as I've seen him today. Regardless of which hitters [it] was against and all that other stuff, he was in command," Showalter said. "That's pretty solid right there. Down with everything with a couple exceptions. Pretty impressive."
Jurrjens, a 2011 All-Star when he was with the Atlanta Braves, originally signed a major league deal with the Orioles, but the club had concerns after his physical and eventually the sides agreed on a minor league contract. He can't opt out of the deal until June 15, according to an industry source.
Markakis could hit live BP Sunday
Having been cleared to resume baseball activities, Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis (neck) ran, threw and hit off a tee Friday. He is expected to hit soft toss Saturday and perhaps face live pitching from coaches Sunday, Showalter said.
Markakis hasn't played since March 1, when he was 0-for-3 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was scratched from the starting lineup on March 3 with neck stiffness. After an MRI, Markakis was diagnosed with a small disk herniation in his neck.
Markakis, who last season needed just 24 spring at-bats to return from offseason abdominal surgery, said he doesn't feel rushed to get a lot of at-bats in order to be ready for the regular season. Markakis has 12 at-bats this spring and thinks there are enough opportunities for him to be ready for Opening Day, which is a little more than a week away.
"I think the way they have it planned out, I can always go over to the minor league [camp] and get ABs," Markakis said. "I'd like to get into three or four games before [camp ends], and that would put me at around 25 at-bats heading into the season. That's if we don't have any setbacks, and I hope we don't have any."
Around the horn
Right-hander Chris Tillman will start Sunday's Grapefruit League game in Bradenton, while left-hander Brian Matusz will pitch in a minor league game at Twin Lakes Park. It will be Tillman's first Grapefruit League outing since March 3 after dealing with abdominal soreness. … Ed Flaherty, the head baseball coach at the University of Southern Maine and the father of Orioles infielder, Ryan, won his 800th game, becoming the 13th baseball coach in NCAA Division III history to reach that milestone. He is 800-370-4 in a 28-season coaching career. … Reliever Mark Hendrickson, who was away from the team due to the birth of his daughter, is expected to return Saturday. … Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada (elbow surgery) threw another side session Friday.
Baltimore Sun reporter Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this report.Orioles Insider | Live scores | Photos | Baseball app
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun