Jim Johnson says elbow “a non-issue”

I just got off the phone with Orioles reliever Jim Johnson, who had plenty to say about his right elbow, his motivation for the 2011 season and all the changes that have been made to the roster.

Johnson lives in Sarasota during the winter, so he basked in 70-degree weather today while many of us braced for more snow. His in-laws live in Annapolis, so he’s fully aware that we’re not working on our tans.

Johnson played catch again today at Ed Smith Stadium. He’s been throwing for the last three weeks and should climb a mound for the first time in about two weeks. That’s pretty much his normal routine, though he’s done more “rehab-style” exercises because of his right elbow. Johnson also forced himself to rest for an extra week before getting back to the gym.

Johnson was limited to 26 games last season because of a slight ligament tear in the elbow, but he said it’s been “a non-issue.”

“I’ve stayed in touch with the trainers, and our minor league medical coordinator lives here in Sarasota, so he stays on top of things and makes sure I do what I need to do,” Johnson said. “Everything’s been progressing nicely. I can’t complain.

“I’ve been working out really hard. Everything seems to be coming together.”

Johnson has tracked all of the Orioles’ moves during the winter, including the signing of reliever Kevin Gregg, who took his physical today.

“Yeah, we’ve added a couple guys,” he said. “Obviously, Kevin is a good one to add. Anybody that has been in the American League East before and pitched like that, I think he brings a lot to the team. And I’m glad we re-signed Koji (Uehara). I know him and his sideburns are legendary in the city of Baltimore. I think they need to come up with a new promo for that.”

Could Johnson’s role change this season?

“It could be different. There could be a lot of different things, and I think those questions will be answered in spring training,” he said. “I’d like to give you an answer right now, but Buck (Showalter) is going to come to his own conclusions on how he wants to do things, and he’ll probably see how things work out in spring training.

“Unfortunately, injuries were a problem with Koji and Gonzo (Michael Gonzalez) and everybody else, it seemed like. We had a rash of injuries across the ‘pen. I hope that’s not a problem this year, but I think we’re in better shape where we can pick each other up much easier.”

I’ll post more from Johnson tomorrow. I’ll also pass along quotes from Gregg after the conference call.

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