MINNEAPOLIS - Steve Johnson isn’t sure how long he will remain with the Orioles. If you’re keeping track at home, he will be the ninth starter used this season when he takes the mound on Saturday. He’s just going to appreciate the moment and see what develops.
“I’m happy to get the call for however long it will be,” he said. “It’s just good to get healthy and get those rehab starts and get the full pitch count. I felt really good in my last start, and hope I continue with it.”
Johnson went on the disabled list toward the end of spring training with a strained right lat. He made two injury-rehab starts with Triple-A Norfolk before being activated and optioned to the Tides, and he made one more start before the Orioles chose him for Saturday’s assignment.
Johnson was in the Orioles’ clubhouse today, though they hadn’t officially recalled him. The roster move could be announced after tonight’s game or Saturday afternoon.
“It’s still the beginning of the season for everybody for the most part,” Johnson said. “I’ve only had a couple of starts, but I’ve felt good. My command has been there. I haven’t walked that many guys. All my stuff felt really good last time. It might only be one of the first couple of starts of the season where they’re letting me go all the way, but I feel really good.
“They said, ‘You’re starting Saturday,’ and I don’t know anything after that. Just focus on that start, and we’ll go from there.”
Johnson had a shot at making the rotation in spring training, but the injury forced him out of the competition. The disappointment was evident on his face as he sat in front of his locker each morning.
“Of course,” he said. “My goal was to break with the team. Unfortunately, it couldn’t happen. It was just frustrating to not break with any team, to be stuck in extended. Had to wait and have it heal, and glad to get the opportunity.”
Johnson allowed eight runs and 17 hits in 16 1/3 innings in his three starts at Norfolk, with four walks and 19 strikeouts. He had to build up his innings and prove he was healthy while the Orioles summoned Josh Stinson, Zach Britton and Freddy Garcia to make starts.
“The guys who went up there, sometimes it doesn’t matter. It depends on what day it falls on and all that stuff,” he said. “It was frustrating not to even be in consideration because I was still hurt. Went back to get healthy and get my pitch count up. Things worked out.”
Johnson felt like he no longer had to hold back on the mound during his last start.
“I finally got to about 90 pitches,” he said. “Got up and down all those times. I had a good feeling going in, but getting that start out of the way was basically a full game. I didn’t have any issues, so I was fine.”
In his most recent start with Norfolk, Johnson allowed two runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings against Buffalo, with one walk and eight strikeouts.
“That was the first time he was up to speed,” said manager Buck Showalter. “We’ll see if it plays up here tomorrow.
“Obviously, we’re going to have to make a move to make room for him. The question will be be kind of, will we have to do anything after he pitches with those two off days? It kind of changed the way you look at it. We’ll see.
“He looks good. I thought some of the inactivity he had, he had kind of gotten away from some things because he had to physically. He worked hard to get in good pitching shape.”
As for tonight’s game, Manny Machado singled in the top of the first inning, but Twins starter Mike Pelfrey retired Nick Markakis and Adam Jones on fly balls to center field. Pelfrey threw 23 pitches, the first 10 to leadoff hitter Nate McLouth, who grounded out.