A decision is looming for Steve Johnson and the Orioles

Orioles minor league pitcher Steve Johnson is having a good year at Triple-A Norfolk. He is 1-3 with an ERA of 2.62 over eight games and has a batting average against of just .191.

Johnson has been on the disabled list since May 19 with a groin strain, but he has thrown two bullpen sessions recently and should be ready to rejoin the Tides rotation later this week, possibly on Friday.

That is, if he is still part of the Orioles organization then.

While no one is saying much publicly right now, Johnson reportedly has an out clause in his contract that would allow him to get out of his contract and leave the organization if he is not put on the 40-man roster by June 1.

The deadline for the O’s to add him is midnight Friday. After that it is Johnson’s choice whether to stay or leave his hometown team. If the O’s elect to not put him on the 40-man and another team is ready to do that, Johnson could opt to go to the other club.

The 24-year-old right-hander was acquired by the Birds in the George Sherrill trade to the Dodgers of July 30, 2009. He was taken by San Francisco in the Rule 5 draft in December 2009 but was returned to the Orioles in March 2010.

The timing of his groin injury was not great for him with this deadline looming, but he sure has had a strong year, giving up just 30 hits over 44 2/3 innings with 13 walks and 36 strikeouts. Right-handed hitters are batting just .123 against him.

There appears to be a chance he would be willing to exercise his out and leave the club if he doesn’t get added to the 40-man roster. The Orioles currently have 39 players on their 40-man roster.

When reached earlier today, Johnson said he would prefer not to comment. This figures to be an emotional few days for a kid from Baltimore who is having a very good year, but with the uncertainty over whether he will be with the club at this time next week.

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