This has not been an easy day for Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz. Today he had to tell a pitcher that has been solid for him for a few seasons, that he was going back to the minor leagues.
Kranitz and manager Dave Trembley met with Jim Johnson earlier today here at Camden Yards to tell the right-hander he was being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.
“Number one, this is very hard for me, for what he has given this organization. We’ve asked him to close, we’ve asked him to go three innings and do a lot of things. He’s always stepped up for us. This was a hard decision to make, but it’s one that we made to help him.
“I’m certain it will help him. But he needs to get back to who Jim Johnson is. He can’t worry about what each hitter is going to do to you. It’s what you are going to do to the hitter. You don’t make the adjustment, let the hitter adjust on you.
“We started to see too many different pitches in different counts. He started to get away from his sinker and who he was. I just think he got away from that.”
Johnson gave up the tie and go ahead runs last night as Boston moved ahead of the Orioles 4-3 before the O’s rallied. He is 1-1, 6.52 in 9 2/3 on the year, with AL batters hitting .349 against him.
When he pitched this year with runners in scoring position, Johnson allowed seven hits in 14 at bats.
“I hope it’s not for very long. We need him and we need him to be good. He’s our main guy in the bullpen and I expect him to be back soon. Just go down and take a breath of fresh air and just relax. I don’t think some people understand the pressure on players day to day, especially when we haven’t been winning. I know we’ll see the Jim Johnson that has pitched well for us.”
Johnson has been a life-long Oriole since the club drafted him in round five in 2001. He’s only pitched four minor league innings since he was in Norfolk’s rotation in 2007. But since July first of last year, he has worked to an ERA of 6.21.
“He understood,” Kranitz said. “You’re not a competitor if you are happy with it. But we have to do what is right for the player and organization. At this time, he understood that. We can give him multiple innings there to get it rolling and get it back quicker.”
Kranitz was asked if Johnson has to regain his confidence, as well as his sinker, at Norfolk.
“Anyone’s confidence takes a hit when you think you make a good pitch and something happens. It’s such a fragile game with ups and downs.
“To me he made a great pitch (last night) on Pedroia and then he pulls it in the hole. The ball was six to eight inches off the plate. He must be thinking to himself ‘what do I have to do.’
“We just have to take the pressure off him and let him kind of regroup and get back to thinking the right way, attacking and being who he is.”