ABERDEEN, Md. - For Steve Johnson, tonight's outing for short-season Single-A Aberdeen was a success, even if he didn't put up zeroes against the Vermont Lake Monsters.
Pitching in a game for just the second time since he went on the disabled list with a strained left oblique on June 6, Johnson wanted to come through his outing feeling healthy and he did.
He did give up a two-out solo homer in the opening inning and was limited to 50 pitches. He went 2 1/3 innings, allowing three hits and two runs with one walk and four strikeouts. Johnson threw 48 pitches, 28 for strikes and fell behind on the count to six of the 11 hitters he faced.
"Most importantly, I felt good and strong with my oblique," Johnson said. "My command was a little off. I was around the zone, but they weren't quite strikes. I felt sharp with all my pitches, just the command is not quite there. Hopefully, next start it could all be there. But had a good slider, good changeup and everything was down. No issues at all physically."
One pitch that didn't find the mark left Ripken Stadium in the first inning when Vermont right fielder Tyler Marincov homered to center with two outs on a 2-0 pitch.
"Just left it up. I missed down in that inning and was trying to bring the ball up and I left that one up and he put a good swing on it," Johnson said.
A few minutes after his outing, Johnson wasn't sure where the Orioles would send him to pitch next. But he was pleased with the crispness of his pitches and that his oblique felt fine.
Now he wants to eventually see this rehab stint lead him back to Triple-A or the major leagues.
"That's the goal. Been in Florida (rehabbing) a long time and I want to be on a team competing. But have to make sure I'm healthy and getting stronger. I want to stay healthy," he said.
"The main goal is to get back up to Baltimore or to Norfolk, whether it's the rotation or the bullpen, that is the goal."
A hometown kid from Baltimore, Johnson got to pitch again in the area and pointed out that he had been on that mound here before.
"I actually pitched here twice," he said. "I pitched in the Aflac game in 2004 and my last high school game was here, we lost to St. Joe. But had never played here in pro ball.
"Great fans here and great atmosphere. They had the Zooperstars tonight, so they're always fun. It was fun. I had some family and friends here, lot of fun."
Game update: The IronBirds are leading 5-3 in the seventh. Trey Mancini is 2-for-3 with two RBIs, catcher Austin Wynns is 3-for-3 and Jonathan Schoop is 1-for-4 with a two-run double. Schoop is now 3-for-8 in two IronBirds games.
Before the game tonight, Schoop said he expects to play for Aberdeen again tomorrow before heading back to Triple-A Norfolk. Schoop is rehabbing a stress fracture in his lower back but said he's felt good in playing 10 rehab games so far between the Gulf Coast League and at Aberdeen.
It's a final: Vermont rallied with four runs in the eighth to beat the IronBirds 7-5 tonight in front of 5,370 at Ripken Stadium. Schoop singled in the ninth to finish 2-for-5. Aberdeen is now 17-17. The IronBirds host Vermont again here Thursday night with right-hander Sebastian Vader (2-3, 2.79 ERA) on the mound.