Orioles pitcher Steve Johnson delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins in 2013.
Orioles pitcher Steve Johnson delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins in 2013. (Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports / Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports)

Following an injury-plagued season, right-hander Steve Johnson has been removed from the Orioles' 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk, the club announced Friday.

Johnson, a St. Paul's graduate, did not pitch a major league game in 2014 and spent most of the season battling shoulder problems, missing nearly three months.

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The 27-year-old can refuse the outright assignment and declare free agency because he had been previously outrighted when he was returned to the Orioles by the Giants after San Francisco selected him in the Rule 5 draft following the 2009 season.

Johnson had surgery to remove a bone spur from the back of his right shoulder Sept. 24 and is expected to be ready by the beginning of spring training.

Johnson made 13 starts for Norfolk, going 0-2 with a 7.11 ERA. He made just five starts before he was shelved with shoulder inflammation in May.

He made three rehab starts at Aberdeen and one in the Gulf Coast League before returning to the Tides rotation, but he pitched more than three innings just once in eight starts while rebuilding strength in his shoulder.

Johnson competed for a rotation spot the past two spring trainings, but he had greater value to the club because of his ability to be both a spot starter and a long reliever. He was 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 games (four starts) in 2012, but received just one start in 2013, going 1-1 with a 7.47 ERA in nine appearances.

-- Also of note, there is now a managerial vacancy in the American League East after Joe Maddon opted out of the final year of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays.

As someone who covered Maddon in his first years as a manager and saw how much he invested in turning around the Rays organization, it is a surprise. But it's obvious Maddon couldn't work out an extension with Tampa Bay ownership and decided this was a good time to test the free-agent market.

Maddon's longtime bench coach, Dave Martinez, would seem to be a strong internal candidate, especially since he could smooth the transition.

Orioles bench coach John Russell is the only member of Buck Showalter's staff who has drawn managerial interest, but Russell's understated personality wouldn't seem to be a fit to succeed the outgoing Maddon.

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