Freak injury puts Johnson on DL

Pitcher fractures finger on the bullpen mound

he could miss 3 weeks

April 26, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles pitcher Jason Johnson is following his first victory in eight months with a freakish injury and a trip to the disabled list.

Johnson, who ended a streak of nine consecutive losing decisions on Saturday, went on the DL yesterday with a fracture of his right middle finger. He's expected to miss about three weeks.

Rather than have Johnson start tonight's series opener in Kansas City, manager Mike Hargrove will give the ball to Sean Douglass, who was recalled from Triple-A Rochester after yesterday's 7-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Infielder Brian Roberts was optioned to Rochester, and pitcher Travis Driskill took Johnson's place on the roster.

Johnson injury occurred while simulating his throwing motion on a bullpen mound about an hour before the game. His hand struck the ground on his follow-through, causing a break of the middle joint.

"It was a normal routine of his. He's not even holding a ball," said Hargrove. "I never heard of anyone breaking their finger that way. I don't know how you can bend over that far. He was working on his balance and rhythm. It's something he does between every start."

Johnson has hit the ground before, but never hard enough to fracture a bone.

"I do shadow work before every start, just to get my mechanics right," he said. "I usually try to be pretty careful about it, but on this one, I guess I wasn't paying that much attention to it and paid the price. When I hit it, I knew I hit it hard. I kind of heard it pop. I was hoping it was maybe a strain, no big deal, but it turned out to be worse.

"My shoulder was a little tired, so this will give me some extra time to rest it up. I like to look for some kind of positive out of this."

Driskill, 30, is making his first appearance in the majors after being selected by the Cleveland Indians in the fourth round of the 1993 draft. He spent the past two seasons in the Houston Astros' organization, ranking fourth in the Pacific Coast League last year with 11 victories. He led the league in innings with 178 2/3 and posted a 3.78 ERA.

Signed as a minor-league free agent in November, Driskill allowed four runs in nine innings this spring before being cut. He was named the International League's Pitcher of the Week after tossing a three-hit shutout against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on April 17, but he left Tuesday's start after three innings with a sore hamstring.

Driskill was 2-2 in four starts this season, with a 1.64 ERA that ranked fourth in the league. He allowed 17 hits in 22 innings, walking one and striking out 15. As Willis Roberts pitched the ninth yesterday, Driskill began warming in the Orioles' bullpen.

"After 10 years, I never expected it to come," he said. "I always hoped it would come. I kept trying to put myself in the position and make them make the decision."

There was convenience in yesterday's roster move. Driskill already was headed to Baltimore, with Roberts scheduled to return to Rochester. But Johnson's injury necessitated another move involving Douglass, who was 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in four starts. He was 2-1 with a 5.31 in four starts with the Orioles last season.

Johnson's injury ruins what would have been a unusual pairing tonight with Kansas City's Dan Reichert, who also is diabetic. They might have been the only pitchers to face each other with the same medical condition.

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