Pitcher Dave Johnson received his wish yesterday when the Baltimore Orioles activated him from the disabled list.
Johnson, who has been on a rehabilitation assignment since July 2, will go to the bullpen temporarily and be on call should something affect the status of anyone in the five-man starting rotation.
"We'll see how things go," said manager John Oates. "I like the idea of a six-man bullpen, and Dave will be available any way I want to use him. Most likely, it'll be long, and probably very long."
That means Johnson will be the first man in if a starter falters in the early innings, and that's fine with him.
"Hopefully, I'll get the chance to pitch in the rotation," he said. "But now I'll go do whatever they want me to do. It's just like when Frank [Robinson] told me to go to the bullpen earlier.
"I'm just happy to be back."
Last night might have begun happily for Johnson, but it did not end that way.
He replaced Jeff Robinson with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth. He struck out Mark McGwire, but then Ernest Riles followed with a grand slam to put the Oakland Athletics ahead, 7-3, before Johnson got out of the inning. Then in the seventh, Johnson gave up home runs to Jose Canseco and Harold Baines.
To make room for Johnson, infielder Shane Turner was optioned to the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings. Turner spent 10 days with the team, batting once.
Johnson said he is recovered from the injured groin muscle that put him on the disabled list May 19. On rehabilitation, he pitched three times for the Class AA Hagerstown Suns and twice for Rochester, combining for a 3-1 record. He last pitched for the Orioles on May 16.
He said he experimented more with his breaking ball in two Red Wings starts after throwing mostly fastballs in Class AA.
Oates left the door ajar for Johnson to return to the rotation, saying: "There is always a chance. There isn't a timetable. We'll start the five best pitchers. If the opportunity presents itself, we'll do it."
An adjustment to bullpen duty will be necessary.
"It'll be difficult," Johnson said. "It's a situation where I have to have enough time to get ready. I'm not [Gregg] Olson or [Mark] Williamson, who can throw a couple and be there."
Johnson said he was getting eager to return but said he wasn't upset with the organization.
"They have to base their decision on what's right for the whole ballclub, not just Dave Johnson," he said. "Obviously, everything's fine now."