J. Johnson happy to get in some work

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Held back, starter tries to keep momentum

May 24, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles pitcher Jason Johnson understands the concept of momentum, which means he has a pretty good idea of the challenge involved in maintaining it.

Johnson's last start came May13 at Camden Yards, when he shut out the Boston Red Sox on two hits over seven innings. Poised for his first victory in three decisions, Johnson came away empty-handed when the bullpen failed to protect a 1-0 lead.

His next turn came Friday in Texas, but rain forced a postponement. Not wanting to disrupt the entire staff, especially Mike Mussina, manager Mike Hargrove chose to skip over Johnson rather than push him back one night. Mussina started on Saturday, while Johnson went to the bullpen.

Before pitching the eighth inning last night, Johnson's period of inactivity had stretched 10 days. He's not scheduled to start again until Saturday against Oakland.

Asked if it's been difficult to wait, Johnson said, "Absolutely. It's very frustrating. I don't like it but it's something I had to do. I felt like I was right where I wanted to be my last start. Now it's going to be two weeks. It's going to be tough."

Johnson worries about being "too strong." He threw in the bullpen during the seventh inning of Sunday night's game in Texas, just to stretch out his arm and retain a feel for the mound. He planned on throwing again today if he hadn't been used last night, when he allowed one hit and struck out one.

At least Johnson's been given more time to allow a callus to heal on the tip of the middle finger of his right hand. Bleeding beneath it caused a cut to open during his last start, and he's been applying ointment and alcohol."It feels great now," he said. "I was ready to pitch my last start."

Maduro wiser, sounder

Calvin Maduro is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday, and the Orioles' reliever has no doubt he'll be ready.

Maduro was puzzled at the time by the club's decision to put him on the DL with a strained muscle in his right elbow. He had insisted on May 14, when the Orioles made the move following a 10-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox, that a few days' rest would cure the ailment. Now, he knows differently.

The soreness remained the following day, to the point where Maduro realized it would take longer to subside than he had anticipated. He was told by trainer Richie Bancells to shut it down for a week to 10 days."That worked out really good. That was the best option," Maduro said.

For the first time, Maduro will do some light throwing before tomorrow's game. He doesn't expect any problems."It feels great. The pain is out," he said. "Richie and [assistant trainer] Brian Ebel have done a really good job. From where it was then to where it is now, it's great. Richie explained to me what the problem was and we worked at it. He just checked it again today and the pain is completely gone."

All that remains is the stinging sensation from his last appearance on May 12, when Maduro gave up four runs and five hits in the ninth inning of a 9-0 loss to the Red Sox. He had pitched a scoreless inning the previous night.

This is the first time Maduro has been on the DL. Unsure of what to expect, he sought the advice of teammates, including second baseman Delino DeShields, who have battled back from injuries."They were saying it's better to miss two weeks than the entire season," Maduro said. "I'm just excited to be throwing again."

Back to basics

The Orioles' lineup returned to normal last night, with B.J. Surhoff batting third behind DeShields, and Cal Ripken hitting sixth one spot ahead of Will Clark.

Hargrove had dropped Surhoff to eighth on Sunday, a concession to the left fielder's horrendous slump and Texas left-hander Darren Oliver. Surhoff, who went 0-for-4 last night to stretch his slump to 14-for-96 (.146), had doubled in the last two previous games and appeared more sure of himself at the plate rather than flailing at pitches out of the strike zone."B.J.'s at-bats the last two or three games have been better and better," Hargrove said before last night's game. "He was waiting on his heels and chasing bad pitches."

Surhoff also batted seventh twice while the Orioles were in Anaheim, with DeShields dropping to third. Hargrove flip-flopped Ripken and Clark for Sunday's game to alternate his right-handed and left-handed hitters. Going with a more conventional alignment last night, Hargrove said his decisions will be based on "feel and how it sets up the rest of the lineup."

Around the horn

In the ninth inning, Rickey Henderson became only the third player to draw 2,000 career walks, joining Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.

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