Manager Buck Showalter enjoyed talking about Nick Johnson for a change without having to dissect a hitless streak or explain why he kept putting the veteran in his lineup.
It was all good tonight, with Johnson singling, walking, stealing a base and hitting a decisive two-run homer in the Orioles’ 4-3 victory over Tampa Bay.
“Nick had a lot of good at-bats tonight, the type he’s capable of putting together that we saw in the spring,” Showalter said. “I think you can tell what everybody in the clubhouse thinks of him and respects him, so to see him make the contribution he made tonight ... It’s not like he hasn’t. He’s had some good at-bats over at Fenway, too. He’s very professional. You know that he’s grinding.”
Showalter stuck with Johnson through an 0-for-28 start.
“You trust guys with Nick’s makeup and the things he’s been through to get to this point,” Showalter said. “He’s always been coveted on clubs if he could just stay healthy, and I think that’s what’s been frustrating for him. For the first time, he’s been healthy, knock on wood. But he’ll be the first to tell you that tonight was one night. With some of the injuries we’re having, we’re going to, once again, need some guys to step up.”
Showalter agreed that this win should be classified as a big one.
“We all know what kind of club Tampa is,” he said. “Like I said before, it’s a given that they’re going to be a force.”
Showalter’s heart probably jumped in his throat as he watched Sean Rodriguez plow into catcher Matt Wieters, who held onto the ball.
“I’m sure he can’t remember it,” Showalter said. “It was a concern. It’s a tough game played by tough people on both sides of the diamond. It’s an unfortunate part of it. Matt’s blocking the plate there and didn’t really give him any avenue. It’s tough to take your emotion out of that play because I love all my players, but in that situation there, you’re looking for something, and as much as I had Robby and different guys look at it, there’s really nothing there. It’s a good, hard, clean play, just like a good, hard slide at second base. And that’s the way the game is played.
“He’s got a cut in his mouth and a cut up on his ear, but we kept checking with him the whole time. I planned on DHing him at the most tomorrow anyway.”
Dana Eveland turned in a quality start by definition, with three runs allowed over six innings, but he walked six batters and hit two.
“That’s a break because that’s not going to happen normally,” Showalter said. “We were very fortunate. He kept the ball on the ground when they did put it in play and kept it in the ballpark. I think Dana would be the first to tell you that’s really not his MO at the level behind him, but like I said before, it’s the biggest jump in professional sports. You’ve got to throw it over up here for the most part.
“He battled his way through it, but six walks and hit batters, it won’t work in the future and he knows that.”
Showalter provided an update on reliever Matt Lindstrom, who went on the disabled list today with a strained ligament in his right middle finger. He’ll undergo a MRI tomorrow.
“After he pitched last night, he said he felt something in his finger there,” Showalter said. “I’m sure you all have identified the finger and all the descriptions. But they’re going to get an MRI and see. I know Dr. (Lewis) Wilckens got here from surgery a little after 5, and after examining him, said it would be a while, at least the DL period. Until we get the reports back, I’m not going to project it.
“We’ve got some other things we’ve got to decide between now and tomorrow, so stay tuned.”