SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles right-hander Steve Johnson is seemingly among a long list of pitchers pitching well at spring camp and fighting for one of the club's last roster spots with opening day approaching.
The 26-year-old Baltimore native is trying to put 2013 in his rear-view mirror. He had four stints with the Orioles, but also two DL trips and injuries were a factor as he pitched to a 7.47 ERA over 15 2/3 innings. For the playoff-bound 2012 O's, Johnson pitched some big games late in the season, going 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA.
He has a 2.57 ERA in four spring outings here in Florida. Over seven innings, he has allowed just three hits and two runs with two walks, six strikeouts and a .130 average against. He has given up runs in just one outing with three scoreless, most recently on Wednesday when he pitched two innings against Philadelphia.
"I feel good," Johnson said. "I had one outing where I gave up some runs. Just trying to get innings and compete. There are a lot of guys going for a few spots. It's tough competition, but it's fun."
Johnson is trying to get ready for the season and at the same time, work on his pitches. But he realizes the need to pitch well to make the team.
"Spring training is one of those times, unless you have a locked-in deal, you are trying to move up," he said. "In the minors, you are always trying to move up a level. But also you are trying to work on things.
"There are certain times you may give up a few hits as you work on different pitches and throw them in situations you normally would not. But everyone else is doing it and most of the time, they don't base everything off just the stats. They look at what your stuff looks like.
"I feel good and want to prove to them I can do what I did in 2012. I'm healthy now and that is the most important part. Want to show that 2012 wasn't a fluke."
Johnson has begun working on throwing a split-finger fastball. He feels that pitch could help him get more groundball outs and also potentially get outs earlier in the count. It could turn into a possible putaway pitch for him.
"I've thrown it pretty much in every outing at least once or twice," he said. "It just needs to become more consistent. It's getting there. I feel like it can be a big pitch for me when I do throw it well."