After struggling in the first month of the season, Jim Johnson became the odd man out of the Orioles' bullpen on Saturday and was sent to Triple-A Norfolk.
Johnson was the Orioles' closer in the second half of 2009 and took over the role temporarily in 2010 when Michael Gonzalez went on the disabled list. Johnson, 26, allowed five base runners and another run on Friday, pushing his ERA to 6.52 ERA in 10 games.
Johnson (1-1) had allowed 15 hits, four walks and seven earned runs in 9 2/3 innings and has been charged with three blown saves while converting one. He has allowed five of eight inherited runners to score.
Orioles manager Dave Trembley said Johnson will go down to the minors and attempt to regain the confidence and feel that allowed him to be one of baseball's best setup men in 2008.
"He needs to get back in more of a comfort zone. I think he needs to go into a little more of a relaxed environment. Find himself again," Trembley said. "I think he's gotten away from what he's done best. We had a nice, long conversation today. He understands."
The move was made when Brad Bergesen was recalled from Norfolk to pitch in Saturday's game against Boston.
Like Bergesen's, the Orioles hope Johnson's stay in the minors is brief. He will remain a reliever at Norfolk but will likely pitch multiple innings while he works on recapturing his formidable sinker.
"I hope it's not very long because we need him. We need him to be good," pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. "He is our main guy in the bullpen that has the experience and has done the job for us. So yeah, I do expect him to be back soon, and I do expect him to go down and relax."
In unrelated news, reliever Koji Uehara's schedule at Norfolk has been tweaked so he can pitch in back-to-back games, but not a day game after a night game. He will throw an inning on Sunday afternoon and again on Monday night before he is re-evaluated, Trembley said.