Freak injury leaves hard-luck Johnson down in the count


TORONTO - It looks like Orioles pitcher Jason Johnson will finish the season with almost half as many freak injuries as wins.

Johnson broke the tip of his right ring finger when an incoming fly ball hit him in the outfield during batting practice last week, and he'll miss his final start of the season.

This is the second time Johnson has broken one of his right fingers this season in a freak accident. In April, he was practicing his throwing motion without a baseball and broke his right middle finger when he banged it against the ground.

That first injury put him on the disabled list from April 25 to June 7. He went back on the DL in late July with tendinitis in his right shoulder.

Take these three injuries and mix in some poor run support - the Orioles have scored two or fewer runs in 11 of Johnson's 22 starts - and it's not so hard to believe that he has a 5-14 record.

That wasn't exactly what the Orioles had in mind when they gave him a two-year, $4.7 million contract this past offseason.

"It's certainly disappointing, for him and us," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "I think we obviously projected him a lot better than that. He's a better pitcher than that. He's worked hard. He was in shape when he came to camp, and he worked hard during the season. It just didn't happen for him."

Johnson didn't make the trip to Toronto and was unavailable to comment. In his place, Travis Driskill is expected to make Saturday's start against the New York Yankees.

Hargrove said Johnson was stretching in the outfield Friday during batting practice and didn't see the ball coming until someone hollered. Johnson reached up his right hand to protect himself, and the ball hit the top of his finger.

Johnson kept the injury to himself, Hargrove said, and still managed one of his best starts of the season Saturday against Boston. Johnson held the Red Sox to two runs on five hits over eight innings but still came away with a no-decision. It was the seventh time this season he made a quality start and didn't get a victory.

"I think the easy way out is to say, 'Well he didn't get any run support,' " Hargrove said. "That's an easy crutch. I think it's legitimate, but it hides other things he needs to do better for next year."

Lopez given green light

The Orioles also debated pulling the plug on Rodrigo Lopez's season, fearing overuse, but he will get one more start tonight against the Blue Jays.

Toronto roughed him up last week at Camden Yards. He allowed six runs, five earned, on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings. But Lopez convinced Hargrove and pitching coach Mark Wiley that he could make this start after having a solid bullpen session on Monday.

"I know I haven't pitched in September before, but I still feel strong," Lopez said. "I want to finish the season with a good game. That would mean a lot."

DeMacio honored

Orioles scouting director Tony DeMacio has been named Executive of the Year by the Mid-Atlantic Scouts Association. Voting is done by professional scouts who live or work in the mid-Atlantic region.

"It's voted on by your peers, which really makes it special," said DeMacio, who beat out Atlanta Braves general manager John Schuerholz for the award.

Dean Albany, a part-time scout with the Orioles, was named Associate Scout of the Year. Albany runs the Oriolelanders team, which is composed of local players and sponsored by the club.

Around the horn

The Orioles recently raised $45,000 for the Maryland Survivors Scholarship Fund, including $25,000 in an online auction of the special jerseys the team wore on Sept. 11 at Yankee Stadium. Mike Bordick's jersey went for the most, at $2,735. A silent auction of Orioles memorabilia on Sept. 8 raised nearly $19,000. The fund was established to ensure that the 45 children of Maryland's victims in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will be able to attend college.

Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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