Major-league contract lures Johnson to Angels


Dave Johnson, who was dropped from the Orioles' roster two months ago, has agreed to a one-year contract with the California Angels. The deciding factor for Johnson was not having to sign a minor-league contract.

"Whitey Herzog [California general manager] told my agent [Steve Greenberg], 'I know what the guy can do -- if he's healthy he'll make my club -- so there's no need for a split contract. Either he makes the team or he gets one-sixth of his salary [$33,000 on a $200,000 contract] and walks away.'

"I can't ask for any more than that," Johnson said yesterday after working out at Memorial Stadium. "They're putting me on the major-league roster and giving me a chance to make their starting rotation."

The Angels didn't have a regular No. 5 starter last year and lost Kirk McCaskill, their No. 4 man, to the Chicago White Sox via free agency. Yesterday, in addition to Johnson, they signed ex-Giants righthander Don Robinson, whose age (36) and medical history make him a gamble.

"They've got three awfully good lefthanded starters in [Chuck] Finley, [Mark] Langston and [Jim] Abbott," said Johnson. "I couldn't have asked for any better opportunity."

A native of the Middle River area, Johnson admitted his preference was to stay at home with the Orioles. But the best he could hope for was a Triple A contract at Rochester, with the possibility of being added to the roster May 15.

"If I didn't have anything other than a minor-league offer, I would have gone to Rochester and taken my chances," said Johnson. "But this is too good an opportunity to pass up."

After going 13-9 with a 4.10 earned run average for the Orioles in 1990, Johnson suffered through a injury-plagued season last year. He finished with a 4-8 record and a 7.07 earned run average in 84 innings.

Three of Johnson's wins were against the Texas Rangers, but he was only 1-8 with an 8.29 ERA in 71 2/3 innings against the rest of the American League. He made only 14 starts, and was winless in his last eight.

However, in 1990 Johnson pitched 180 innings in 30 games (29 starts), and in 1989 he worked 89 1/3 innings in 14 starts. Those numbers were sufficient to influence the Angels to give him a chance.

* Taking a cue from their success with Todd Frohwirth a year ago, the Orioles have signed another free-agent pitcher from the Phillies' organization.

Righthander Amalio Correno, who was 4-8 with a 5.33 earned run average for Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Triple A), agreed to terms of a Rochester contract. He will go to spring training with the Orioles.

Last year the Orioles signed Frohwirth after the Phillies decided not to protect him on their major-league roster. The righthander posted a 7-3 record, with three saves and a 1.87 earned run average.

* The Orioles will hold their fifth annual Winter Carnival Jan. 25 at Martin's West. Manager John Oates and many present and former Orioles, as well as front-office officials, will participate.

The event, which includes autograph sessions, a clinic, a memorabilia show, a media roundtable discussion and baseball style food and drinks, will run from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under and can be ordered by calling 481-SEAT.

For information, call the Orioles marketing department at 243-9800.

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