Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked again tonight about closer Jim Johnson, who blew his second straight save opportunity in a 10-6 loss to the Rays.
"He had little command issues, but he usually works his way through them, like a lot of our pitchers, like all pitchers in the major leagues do at times," Showalter said.
Showalter mentioned Desmond Jennings' broken-bat single into left field that loaded the bases with one out and the Orioles clinging to a one-run lead. But it wasn't just bad luck that extended the Orioles' losing streak to a season-high four games.
"We put ourselves in a tough spot there," Showalter said. "We did. Jimmy didn't. We did. We didn't pitch particularly well in some places. Some places we did."
Is Johnson in a slump?
"I don't look at it like that at all," Showalter said. "I'm lucky to have him. We are. And we didn't finish off our game today, but we had some things that could have made it easier and that's baseball. That happens sometimes. It's very frustrating, but you've got to turn the page. It's a game of constant challenges, and there will be another one right around the corner."
Jair Jurrjens lasted five innings in his Orioles debut, allowing four runs and six hits, walking one and striking out five.
"Similar to Stevie in Minnesota," Showalter said. "He was real sharp the first couple of innings. He was down, spotting his fastball down and away, which plays real well in the major leagues. Command of the fastball is a necessity, and if you're able to do that, you can have those two innings like that. But it was a credit to him that he kept them in the ballpark as much as he could."
Showalter removed Jurrjens after only 75 pitches.
"I felt like, especially with Tommy (Hunter) there rested, Darren O'Day rested, Jim Johnson rested, (Brian) Matusz available to go a hitter or two, we've got a lot of trust in these guys," he said. "We'll figure it out."
Showalter doesn't think the rotation is taxing the bullpen.
"I could take you back through how they've been used and you'd see why we think that way, with the rest and the ups," Showalter said. "We've been very careful, as you see by the pitching moves we make, to not put anybody in harm's way and we won't do that. It's just that right now we're not pitching well. It has nothing to do with some of those other things the last two, three days.
"There's reality, too. I understand that. It falls under the you-know-what. I'm not going to state the obvious to them. Believe me, these guys are professionals. They understand when it's right and they will again."
Showalter said he isn't concerned about a rotation that's produced one start of more than five innings in the last seven games.
"If you're going to tell me the rest of the year we're going to get five-inning starts and we're going to be ahead in the game when they exit, you'd probably take that, because that's usually not the case when you're getting five-inning starts," Showalter said.
"I was the one who made it not a five-inning start (today). He didn't ask out of the game or anything. Tommy pitched well today, Brian got a big out for us. There were a lot of good things that happened. I'm going to dwell on some of that, too. But we've given up a lot of runs the last two games. Part of that is you have to tip your hat to them. They're good at this game, also."