After four nights at Saint Agnes Hospital, Orioles reliever Jim Johnson was finally released Friday morning after a severe case of food poisoning.
Johnson, who has converted 15 straight save opportunities dating to last season, acknowledged the experience was frustrating and frightening.
"A little of both, depending on the time," Johnson said. "It was pretty bad."
Doctors conducted various tests to rule out specific illnesses, and eventually, food poisoning — including when and where — was pinpointed. He was back in the clubhouse Friday, worked out a little and played catch.
"I'm just kind of lethargic, I guess, right now," said Johnson, who wasn't sure when he would next pitch. "I've been laying on my back for four days. Just getting on my feet, running around, doing some cardio stuff was good."
Johnson might not have had his full strength Friday, but the food poisoning didn't sap his wry wit. He cautioned reporters to clean their microphones after the interview. He said he had to have a talk with the hospital president because they didn't have the MASN feed on the facility's TVs so he had to watch the Major League Baseball gamecast on his iPad.
"I watched the pitch-by-pitch thing. Their strike-zone analysis is pretty interesting," he quipped.
The huge New York Rangers fan also said he kept himself busy watching playoff hockey and the NFL draft when he felt up to it.
"I could only get the French version of the Rangers game," Johnson said. "They still won in French. And it still all sounds the same."
When Johnson was finally released, he texted his manager, Buck Showalter: "I don't know who put the bail up for me, but I appreciate it, whoever it was."
Showalter wouldn't rule out Johnson for Friday's game — though he wasn't expected to pitch — but said the biggest challenge would be to slow Johnson down and ease him back into a game situation. More than anything, Showalter said, everyone's just glad the problem was diagnosed.
"First thing that goes through your mind is health, period," Showalter said, "when you have that much time trying to identify something. [But] they finally identified it. As soon as they identified it, it moved pretty quickly."
While Johnson was unavailable, the Orioles' bullpen held its own. Relievers converted all three save opportunities, with Pedro Strop getting two and Luis Ayala saving one.
"I [suspected] that we would be able to handle it," Showalter said. "I think we are a better club with Jimmy here, and we're glad to have him back, but everybody stepped up and I was proud of them."
By going 0-for-3 Thursday, infielder Nick Johnson set the club record for hitless at-bats by a position player to start an Orioles career with 26 — eclipsing infielder Ron Hansen's skid from 1958 to 1960.
The all-time record for modern-day Orioles — since 1954 — is reliever Wes Stock, who was hitless in 36 at-bats (with two walks and 26 strikeouts) Stock was traded to the Kansas City Athletics in June 1964 for catcher Charlie Lau and had three hits for the A's that season.
Johnson didn't play in 2011, so his hitless streak actually goes back to 2010, when he was hitless in the final two at-bats. Johnson's last hit came May 5, 2010, in Yankee Stadium as a New York Yankee. He had three hits that day against the Orioles.
His last hit was a single against Alfredo Simon in the eighth inning of that game. Johnson also homered against Orioles starter David Hernandez, doubled against reliever Mark Hendrickson and walked twice, reaching base in all five plate appearances in the Yankees' 7-5 win.
Only nine Orioles since 1954 have had at least 10 at-bats and never gotten a hit in their Orioles career. Counting Johnson, who likely will break the skid at some point, only three were position players: catcher Tim Laker (14 hitless at-bats in 1997) and outfielder Carl Warwick (14 hitless at-bats in 1965).
The rest were pitchers: Stock (36 hitless at-bats from 1959 to 1964), Harvey Haddix (21, 1964-1965), Charlie Beamon (17, 1956-1958), Art Ceccarelli (14, 1957), Daniel Cabrera (14, 2004-2008) and Rodrigo Lopez (11, 2002-2006).
Andino back; Berken down
Second baseman Robert Andino, who was away from the club for two days for the birth of his daughter, was removed from the paternity list Friday and was in the starting lineup.
Pitcher Jason Berken, who replaced Andino on the roster but did not pitch, was sent back to Triple-A Norfolk. Berken, 28, has pitched to a 0.60 ERA (15 innings, one earned run) with four walks and 10 strikeouts in three starts for the Tides this season.
Zach Britton threw off a mound in Sarasota, Fla., for the first time Friday since receiving an injection in his ailing shoulder in March. Showalter wouldn't reveal a timeline for the lefty's return to the Orioles but said Britton remains on the rehabilitation schedule that the team outlined for him.
"That's good. He is doing everything on the rehab calendar, falling right on schedule," Showalter said. "Don't ask me exactly what he is doing next, exactly when he is going to pitch in a game, but so far, so good."
Around the horn
The Orioles will unveil Frank Robinson's statue at Camden Yards on Saturday, the first of six to be featured this season. The ceremony will start at 5:15 p.m. Among the guests attending will be Hank Aaron, Joe Torre, Jim Palmer, and . … Rookie Ryan Flaherty received his third straight start Friday night. Flaherty had his first big league hit — a bunt single — and first RBI on a sacrifice fly Thursday. Showalter said he wanted to get Flaherty three straight starts, but Wilson Betemit likely will start at third Saturday. ... Heading into Friday, Showalter is three wins from 1,000. … Ten of the Orioles' first 19 games were decided by one or two runs. They were 8-2 in those games. ... Stu Pomeranz was transferred from Triple-A Norfolk to Double-A Bowie, and fellow righty Kyler Newby was transferred from the Baysox to short-season Single-A Aberdeen.