The question popped up in the press box and spread like a virus.
"Does Jim Johnson have options left?"
I made the first inquiry, just out of curiosity. Two writers sitting in front of me didn't have an answer despite my constant badgering. One of them thought he could silence me with a shrug of his shoulders. So naive.
As the debate continued, someone else walked over to me and said, "Does this guy have options left?"
Pure coincidence, but it spoke volumes about Johnson's performance over the first month of the season.
He enters May with a 6.52 ERA. He allowed runs in half of his 10 appearances. He gave up 15 hits and walked four in 9 2/3 innings. He let five of eight inherited runners score. Teams batted .349 against him.
His ball lacks that heavy sink that made him so effective in 2008. We're not aware of any injuries.
Johnson replaced Jason Berken last night with two outs in the seventh and surrendered Dustin Pedroia's single that delivered the tying run. He gave up J.D. Drew's go-ahead home run in the eighth. He threw 31 pitches in one inning, only 16 for strikes.
The Orioles aren't comfortable with him closing. They can't be too comfortable with him setting up.
It would be a stunner if Johnson became a roster casualty, especially so early in the season, but he's a major concern for a team that's trying to repair its bullpen.
By the way, I checked with a team official. Johnson has options left.
Update: I heard on my drive to Camden Yards that Johnson is expected to optioned. The Sun's Dan Connolly is reporting that Johnson is expected to be optioned. Though it hasn't been made official, let's go out on a limb and say the Orioles are optioning Johnson and keeping Matt Albers, who made a fierce comeback after looking like the prime candidate to leave the team.