Steve Johnson nearing return

Steve Johnson threw 35 pitches yesterday in a bullpen session in Sarasota without any discomfort related to his strained right latissimus dorsi muscle.

Johnson, on the 15-day disabled list, will pitch live batting practice on Monday. Assuming the session goes well, he could begin an injury-rehab assignment with one of the Orioles' minor league affiliates.

The Orioles are hoping that he will be ready to pitch in real games within the next week to 10 days.

Johnson is on the major league disabled list, and the Oriole could choose to option him to Triple-A Norfolk once he's activated.

The Tides had four starters before the Orioles claimed Josh Stinson off waivers from the Oakland Athletics on Thursday. Stinson mostly has pitched in relief during his professional career, but executive vice president Dan Duquette said the right-hander would enter Norfolk's rotation.

It sounds like a temporary solution to me.

The Orioles could activate Johnson and add him to their 25-man roster, but they would have to create room for him. At this point, he seems more likely to be optioned, but that decision will come later.

Johnson went 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 games last season, including four starts, as a rookie. He allowed 23 hits, walked 18 and struck out 46 in 38 1/3 innings.

The Orioles had to shut him down late in spring training because of the lat injury. He remained in the hunt for the last rotation spot before being sidelined.

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