Ron Johnson has the Tides rolling

Joe Mahoney couldn't crack the Orioles' lineup again last night. On Thursday, he couldn't crack either one of them.

Chris Davis was a late scratch that night with a strained right trapezius muscle, and he remained on the bench for the second game of the Angels series.

The All-Star break is coming at a good time. Only two more games before the Orioles - with the exception of Adam Jones, Jim Johnson and Matt Wieters - get to enjoy a nice four-day vacation.

Look for Steve Tolleson to be recalled today after he sat out last night's game for Triple-A Norfolk. He'll take Jake Arrieta's spot on the 25-man roster.

Getting back to Mahoney, he's apparently made a favorable impression on Norfolk manager Ron Johnson, the former Red Sox first base coach who was hired over the winter.

"I think for Joe, the sky's the limit," Johnson said earlier this week in a phone conversation. "If you look at Joe, he's got size, strength, he can run. He's a very gifted athlete. If you look at his numbers, they don't jump out at you, but he's developing and getting to the point in his development where he's starting to put some things together.

"I think this is a great situation for him. Everything we do down here is to get guys to know what they have to do to make it to the big leagues. However they're going to use him, I'm not sure. I'm sure it's not going to be a really long time. But it's a really, really good teaching thing, as far as the organization's development of young players.

"He can steal a base for you, too. I shouldn't say that because it's going to be a sneak attack of the Angels, but he can do it. And he's a tremendous first baseman. He's done a very nice job over there. He cuts the infield down, the size of it. He's helped out numerous infielders here with his size and reach. He can pick the ball out of the dirt, move down the line. He has a big wing span and he cuts down base hits. There are a lot of things to like about Joe Mahoney."

The Tides rotation now includes Steve Johnson, who spent two days with the Orioles in Seattle, but didn't get into a game. Johnson will start Sunday.

"Steve's throwing the ball very well," Ron Johnson said. "Moving him out of the rotation had nothing to do with what he had done. Obviously, with (Jamie) Moyer and Dontrelle (Willis) and things of that nature, the guy's got to pitch somewhere. We had to get him in games somehow. He handled it well."

Zach Britton makes another start tonight for the Tides. He allowed two runs (one earned) in six innings in his last outing, and Johnson said, "I like where Zach Britton is right now."

"He's starting to feel real comfortable with what he's doing. His stuff is playing out pretty good.

"It's good for me because I saw Zach last year when he absolutely shoved the bats up our (butts) at Camden Yards. I know what he looks like when he's right. He's on the track he needs to be on."

When Brian Matusz took the mound last night in Charlotte, he became the 21st different starting pitcher for the Tides and the 63rd player to appear in a game, tying the franchise record set in 1998 and 2001. Matusz tossed a four-hit shutout.

Despite the constant upheaval and daily disruptions, the Tides have won 13 of their last 17 games and 17 of 23 to move into second place in the International League's South Division. They rose above .500 on Tuesday for the first time since April 2010.

Johnson has done an amazing job in his first year in the organization. Just learning all the names is a chore.

"The Orioles are trying to win games, and when you do that, you've got to have depth. The minor league system has to be full," Johnson said.

"I think Dan (Duquette) and Buck (Showalter) have done a fantastic job. They've got inventory. And I believe in the people I'm with. I like the direction Dan is taking this thing, and I really enjoy being around Buck. As far as baseball guys go, he's amazing. That part I get excited about.

"It's not about the roster moves of the Norfolk Tides, it's about the direction they're heading with the Baltimore Orioles."

Shameless plug alert: I'm joining Tom Davis and Dave Johnson at noon today for "Wall to Wall Baseball" on MASN.


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