After recording his 35th save of the season in Saturday's 7-4 win over the Rangers, Orioles closer Jim Johnson is on pace to surpass his single-season club record of 51 set last season.
The 30-year-old Johnson is on pace for 58 saves this year, and his projected inning totals are up. He projects to pitch in 75 innings in 2013 compared to 68 2/3 last season.
So following a game like Saturday's — in which Buck Showalter was forced to use Johnson after the Rangers scored three runs in the eighth to create a save situation — the Orioles manager said he's monitoring the times his closer warms up to ensure he stays healthy.
"Unfortunately, because we're not sitting with 9-3 leads, it seems like Jim has had to pitch in a lot of games for us to win," Showalter said. "The times [he warms up], I think he's pitched twice in non-save situations this year. I think the ups and the managing of his off days helps. Plus he's a real honest guy. I'd like for it to be less in a perfect world, but I think he's still in pretty good position."
Over the past two games of the series, Johnson has thrown 41 total pitches in two ninth-inning converted save opportunities. He brought the tying run to the plate Saturday and faced the winning run in Friday's 3-1 win. Johnson has had nine outings in which he's thrown 20 or more pitches already this season. Last season, he had 13 all year.
But Showalter said what's important is making sure Johnson isn't needed in games where the Orioles have leads, like Saturday's when the Orioles went up 7-0 after three innings.
"I would have liked to have gotten the eighth inning pitched a little better [Saturday] night so we didn't have to use him," Showalter said. "Things like that we can get better at and keep it from, but I feel pretty comfortable about how everyone is physically, but knock on wood, we know how quickly that can all change. I think it's a real challenge for all managers because you're trying to win games and keep the guys healthy who help you win those games. You can't pitch the same people every night."
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