Steve Johnson, as is his nature, isn’t going away quietly in the fight for the fifth spot in the rotation.
Johnson, who has earned a reputation as a never-give-up battler, threw four scoreless innings to lead the Orioles to a victory over the Minnesota Twins, 7-1, Sunday at Ed Smith Stadium.
Johnson gave up three hits, one walk and hit a batter, but always made the pitch to get out of trouble. He threw 67 pitches, 40 of them for strikes.
"I was behind a lot of hitters, but I battled back. The slider was really good, helping me get back in some counts,” said Johnson, who has allowed two earned runs in nine spring innings. “I wish I could have gotten ahead of a lot more batters, but I feel like I put up zeros and got out of a couple jams. I did my job.”
Johnson, 25, is in a battle for the fifth starter’s job along with Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton and Jair Jurrjens. Each has been pitching well, and Johnson admits that helps push him.
“It’s a great competition. Everyone’s done pretty well the last time out, so it is definitely a heated battle but it’s a lot of fun going out there and competing,” he said. “You’re not only competing against the other team but you’re competing against the other five, six, seven guys or however many we have going after the spot. So it’s a lot of fun and it’s just an honor to be in the running.”
Matt Wieters hit his third homer of the spring, a two-run shot, and J.J. Hardy, a former Twin, hit his first home run of the exhibition season. It was just his second Grapefruit league hit.
Another former Twin, Lew Ford, had a two-run single, to put the game out of reach.
Johnson allowed just three hits, a walk and a hit batter and now has given up just two earned runs in nine spring innings.
Darren O’Day and Jim Johnson each had scoreless innings and Jair Jurrjens allowed one run – Brandon Boggs solo homer with two outs in the ninth – in three innings. Jurrjens, also in the fifth starter mix, retired nine of the 10 batters he faced.