Johnson still stuck on 10-victory mark

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The 11th victory that would establish a career high for Orioles pitcher Jason Johnson eluded him again yesterday, pretty much moving out of range after the first inning.

Try falling behind 3-0 to Pedro Martinez and still walking away with a favorable outcome.

Johnson is 0-2 with four no-decisions in his past six starts, including yesterday's 5-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox. He has doubled last year's win total, but he hasn't won since Aug. 10 at Fenway Park.

"I'm not worried about it. Wins and losses, you can't do anything about it," he said. "If I go out there and do my job, pitch the best I can, if we don't score enough runs or something like that, I feel like I did my job."

Once the recipient of generous run support, Johnson has been abandoned by the team's offense. The Orioles haven't scored in two of his past three starts, and totaled only one run in a fourth.

Nine Red Sox batters came to the plate in the first inning, when they loaded the bases with none out. Johnson needed 30 pitches to get the last out and retreat to the dugout.

"When I put our team in a hole by three runs right off the bat, it's tough against anybody, no matter who it is," he said.

Boston didn't score again until the seventh, Johnson's last inning.

"It was good to see Jason get himself back together," said manager Mike Hargrove.

If only he could have done it sooner.

"The first three innings, my control was really bad. I was missing spots by a lot," Johnson said. "I was pulling off to first base a lot, and I didn't feel real good at the time. But once I was able to settle down, everything kind of fell into place and I was able to pitch pretty well."

B. Roberts still sidelined

Second baseman Brian Roberts remains unavailable after spraining his right ankle during batting practice Tuesday.

Jerry Hairston served as the designated hitter yesterday, putting less strain on his sore right foot, and Melvin Mora replaced Roberts.

With today's open date, Roberts could return tomorrow in Toronto. "This thing with Brian should be resolved fairly quickly," Hargrove said.

Mora made his fifth start at second base. On the second ball hit to him, Mora short-hopped a bouncer from Nomar Garciaparra, stepped on the bag for the force and threw to first for a double play.

"Wherever they want to put me is fine," he said. "I'm a player. If [Hargrove] puts me in there, it's because he knows I can handle the position."

Mora led the American League batting race at the end of May, but the time he spent recovering from a bruised right hand has cost him a chance at the title.

To qualify, Mora must average 3.1 plate appearances for every game the Orioles play, or 502 appearances over a 162-game season.

Mora's .322 average before Sunday would have tied him with Derek Jeter for the league lead, but his 390 plate appearances weren't enough to qualify. After going 0-for-3 yesterday, Mora is now batting .319.

Daal is activated

The Orioles have activated Omar Daal and put him in the bullpen, where he'll serve as a long man until possibly receiving a start.

Daal hasn't pitched in the majors since June 27 because of tendinitis in his left rotator cuff. In one injury rehab start, he allowed four runs in three innings at Double-A Bowie.

Kurt Ainsworth, who hasn't pitched for the Orioles because of a fractured right shoulder blade, threw a simulated game Tuesday and still seems likely to be activated before the season ends. Hargrove indicated that Ainsworth may need "one or two" more sessions in the bullpen.

Coaching fill-in

With pitching coach Mark Wiley returning to the Orioles yesterday, Bowie manager Dave Trembley became the extra coach.

"It's a twofold purpose," Hargrove said. "It helps us because the workload gets awfully heavy this late in the season. There's been a lot of BP thrown, a lot of fungos hit, and having another guy who can do both things helps. But it's also good because it rewards a person for a job well done.

"I'm glad he's here, and I'm sure he's happy to be here."

Doc Rodgers, the club's director of minor league operations, contacted Trembley about joining the staff, "and obviously I said that I'd be honored.

"Whatever they'd like me to do, I'll be glad to do it."

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