Looking back on Steve Johnson’s intrasquad start (and note)

SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles manager Buck Showalter did his best to monitor both intrasquad games today, climbing up to the tower behind the bleachers for a while, then moving from field 3 to field 4. Terry Crowley tried to keep score, and various coaches offered assistance.

Observers of Steve Johnson’s performance on field 3 had to come away impressed.

Johnson, pitching the bottom of the first inning, was given an extra batter to face after easily retiring the first three. Showalter wanted his hurlers to reach a specific pitch count.

Johnson struck out leadoff hitter Xavier Avery and also recorded an out on a broken-bat grounder. He recorded outs with his fastball, curveball and slider.

“I just got ahead of everybody, really. That was the big thing,” said Johnson, who is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation after going 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 games, including four starts, as a rookie.

“Obviously, in the beginning of spring training, you want to get ahead of everyone and I did that. I got some quick outs. I think I got 0-2 on just about everybody. You really couldn’t ask for anything better. I didn’t give up a hit. I struck out the first guy. I got a broken-bat ground ball and two pop ups, and I threw all my pitches for strikes.

“I threw mainly fastballs and I got ahead. I threw one curveball and got a broken-bat grounder on it, and I threw one slider and got a fly out. I hung it a little bit. I was just trying to throw everything, but that’s the hitters’ first time seeing live pitching, so I just wanted to throw strikes and pound the zone. I was able to do that, which is good.

“The first outing, you never know what you’re going to get, but it felt good.”

Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz were especially good on field 4, the one with the Camden Yards dimensions. They, too, are fighting for a spot in the rotation.

The competition continues with Thursday’s six-inning intrasquad game and Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Minnesota Twins at Ed Smith Stadium.

Left-handers Mark Hendrickson, Troy Patton, Daniel Schlereth and Eduardo Rodriguez will oppose Chris Tillman, Pedro Strop, Daniel McCutchen, Mike Belfiore and Kevin Gausman in Thursday’s game.

Note: Michael Phelps, winner of 22 Olympic medals, will visit the clubhouse before Thursday’s game.

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