CHICAGO - Orioles pitcher Jason Johnson took a dead arm to the mound again yesterday, and by the time the Chicago White Sox were finished with this beating, his entire team looked lifeless.
With his arm still feeling fatigued, Johnson turned in his shortest career start, as the White Sox pounded him for six runs in 1 1/3 innings.
Chicago won its third game of this four-game series at Comiskey Park, 13-4, and the Orioles left for New York looking for ways to patch together a tattered pitching staff.
"Today," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, "was not a good day."
Besides falling to 3-9 as a team and seeing Johnson fall to 0-3, the Orioles also lost reliever Chris Brock indefinitely with right shoulder stiffness. Brock relieved Johnson, with the Orioles hoping he could get them to the late innings, and he didn't make it out of the third.
Brock was scheduled to return to Baltimore, where he will see team physician Dr. Charles Silberstein. Today, the Orioles will likely place Brock on the 15-day disabled list and recall right-hander Rick Bauer from Triple-A Rochester.
Entering a three-game series at Yankee Stadium with the bullpen practically exhausted, the Orioles may also need to promote another pitcher and adjust their roster accordingly.
"We're going to need some help in New York," Hargrove said. "How many [pitchers], I don't know."
The bigger concern is Johnson, who signed a two-year, $4.7 million contract this off-season with the organization hoping this could be his breakout season.
After taking a tough 1-0 loss against David Wells and the Yankees on April 3, Johnson hasn't been the same. One week later, against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, he noticed a sharp drop in velocity and gave up three runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Yesterday, he faced 13 batters and only retired four.
"I think I've just been going through a dead-arm period the last week and a half," Johnson said. "It's been a little tired. I'm going to take it easy for a couple days, and hopefully it'll go away soon.
"I'm missing my spots, and I'm probably 5-6 mph slower right now than normal."
Asked if he might miss his next start, Johnson said, "Absolutely not. It's just dead arm. It'll go away with rest."
In the baseball vernacular, the term "dead arm" sounds a little worse than it actually means. Basically, it amounts to arm fatigue, which typically hits pitchers during spring training and goes away within two weeks.
"I wouldn't blow this too much out of proportion," said Orioles pitching coach Mark Wiley. "He's still strong. He's still one of our best pitchers. I don't see any major problems."
Much like in the Tampa Bay start, Johnson said he knew this one would be a struggle from the beginning. He felt a little stronger but still not as sharp.
The White Sox scored one off Johnson in the first inning, and the second inning turned into a disaster for the Orioles after he retired Jeff Liefer for the first out. Mark Johnson and Royce Clayton singled, Kenny Lofton walked, and Ray Durham blistered a two-run single to left field.
With Lofton and Durham, Johnson was ahead in the count 0-2, and he had some pitches that home plate umpire Dan Iassogna called balls when the Orioles thought they could have been strike three.
"There were a couple pitches that were close," Johnson said, "But most of the time, I just wasn't hitting where I should. He [Iassogna] gave me some pitches, too, so you can never bang on the strike zone when he gives me a couple pitches."
After Durham's single, Frank Thomas drew a five-pitch walk, with Johnson looking exasperated by the way his pitches were missing.
Paul Konerko followed with a run-scoring single, putting Chicago ahead 4-0, and Hargrove replaced Johnson with Brock, who immediately gave up a two-run double to Carlos Lee.
Previously, Johnson's shortest start had been 1 2/3 innings for Tampa Bay on June 2, 1998, against Texas.
"I'm more upset that I don't feel like I should," Johnson said. "Because I've never had any troubles, ever, with my arm. Even dead arm, this is the first time I've ever had that, too. So it's all new to me."