Johnson gets past `dead arm' feeling


Pitcher feels `really good,' ready to start tomorrow

April 14, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO - Orioles pitching coach Mark Wiley said Jason Johnson might have been experiencing a brief case of dead arm Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Johnson had a decrease in velocity and called the entire outing a struggle, even though the Devil Rays scored just three runs off him in 5 1/3 innings.

"Pitchers go through that," Wiley said yesterday. "Usually it happens in spring training. With him, I think it was just dead arm. He had his life back in his arm [Friday], throwing on the side, and all his stuff was crisp."

Johnson wasn't exactly sure what caused him trouble against Tampa Bay, but he thought it probably had something to do with going seven days between starts.

The Orioles were off Monday, and Tuesday's game was rained out, pushing Johnson back after he held the New York Yankees to one run in 7 2/3 innings on April 3.

If it was indeed dead arm, Johnson said that would be a first for him.

"It's possible," he said. "I've never had dead arm before, so I don't know what it feels like. So I don't know if that's what it was or what. I guess we'll find out.

"On the sideline [Friday], it felt great. My arm felt really good."

Johnson is scheduled to pitch in tomorrow's series finale against the Chicago White Sox. At 0-2, he doesn't have a lot to show for his first two starts despite posting a 2.77 ERA. But the Orioles were encouraged Wednesday, just watching the way he battled without his best stuff.

"That's probably the worst I've seen J.J. throw in about a year and a half," said second baseman Jerry Hairston. "And he still kept them right there."

Bullpen roles

Manager Mike Hargrove still hasn't committed himself to naming Jorge Julio as the team's closer, but the bullpen roles are beginning to take shape.

The Orioles still haven't entered a ninth inning with a save situation, but had they made it there yesterday, Julio would have taken the mound, Hargrove said.

Then again, Hargrove said Willis Roberts would have had the save opportunity Friday had the Orioles come back to take the lead with Roberts already having pitched the eighth.

Julio has finished four games already this season, entering in the ninth each time and pitching a scoreless inning. But Hargrove has remained cautious with the 23-year-old right-hander.

In the eighth inning yesterday, Hargrove could have used left-hander Buddy Groom to face Kenny Lofton and Ray Durham, but Hargrove said he was saving Groom at the time to back up Julio in the ninth.

Lofton singled, Durham reached base on Melvin Mora's error, and both wound up scoring decisive runs. When Groom came in, the Orioles were already trailing 4-3.

"We thought that Willis could get those two guys," Hargrove said. "We really felt Willis could get us to the ninth."

Injury update

Hairston, who has missed the past two games with a strained left groin, did some light running yesterday and is targeting Tuesday or Wednesday for his return.

David Segui said his right Achilles' tendon has fully healed after costing him two weeks of spring training games and bothering him slightly as the season started. Serving as the designated hitter for the first seven games, Segui has played the past three at first base. He said he can continue playing there, as long as his chronically injured left knee cooperates.

Around the bases

At 2-8, the Orioles are off to their worst start since 1988, when they started the season 0-21. ... Before making his costly defensive mistake, Mora shined in the leadoff role yesterday, reaching base four times, with two singles, a walk and a hit-by-pitch.

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