Jim Johnson: Will it be the rotation or the 'pen?

We keep hearing talk that Jim Johnson could get some starting pitching assignments before this season ends, but we haven't seen that yet.

Johnson clearly seems capable of handling that role. He has three very good pitches with his sinking fastball, curve and changeup.

He may have the best changeup on the team. And Johnson's power sinker has produced a ratio of 2.15 groundouts to air outs that is the best on the team among those that have pitched 20 innings or more.

Johnson has had a very good season with a 5-4 record and 2.58 ERA. He leads American League relievers with 76 2/3 innings and has given up a batting average against of just .245.

I won't say his innings are being wasted in his current role, not at all. But for a team that loses so much, they need to fix the rotation first.

I think Johnson could succeed as a starter and we all know the Orioles need to find more starting pitching.

But when you see Johnson do what he did Friday night, it makes you wonder if he should be moved out of the bullpen in the future. He came on to preserve Zach Britton's one-run lead and buzzed through Tampa on just 20 pitches over the seventh and eighth innings.

Any team that wants to win games needs to have some real solid late-inning pitchers. The Orioles have one in Johnson.

I still think trying him as a starter makes a lot of sense. You need to pitch well in the first six or seven innings each night before a pitcher like Johnson even comes into play.

The first order in fixing Orioles pitching moving forward is to find some solid starting pitchers and put together a formidable rotation. Everything flows off that.

A good starting pitcher is more valuable than a good bullpen arm. I get that and think it is worth seeing what Johnson could do in the role.

But he sure would be hard to replace in the bullpen.

Bowie bound today: I will be at Bowie for this afternoon's 2 p.m. game with Erie as the Baysox try to gain a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season. Bowie needs to win its game while Richmond loses its noon game at Altoona to clinch second place in the division and make it in. Check back here throughout the day for updates from Bowie.

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