Johnson sore, Stephens may shoulder next start

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Tendinitis could pave way for pitcher's recall, debut

O's watch Mets prospect

Notebook

July 27, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - Orioles pitcher Jason Johnson will miss at least one full turn through the starting rotation because of tendinitis in his right shoulder, manager Mike Hargrove said yesterday, so the club will need a spot starter for Tuesday's game at Tampa Bay.

Johnson underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam this week, and the Orioles don't expect him to pitch until Aug. 4, at the earliest. He resumed throwing exercises yesterday for the first time since he pitched Monday night.

The latest injury to Johnson could open the door for John Stephens to make his major-league debut. Stephens is 11-5 with a 3.03 ERA for Triple-A Rochester, and he made his most recent start Thursday at Toledo, which would put him on schedule to pitch Tuesday.

Stephens, 22, is one of the Orioles' top pitching prospects despite having a fastball that rarely reaches 85 mph. He pitched one scoreless inning this month in the Major League Baseball Futures Game in Milwaukee.

Johnson, who spent six weeks on the disabled list earlier this season with a broken right middle finger, is 3-8 with a 4.44 ERA. Hargrove said the club still has time before deciding whether he needs to go back onto the DL because of the shoulder tendinitis.

B. Roberts plans short stay

Brian Roberts arrived at Fenway Park knowing his latest promotion could be short-lived. Chris Richard, who was scheduled to join the Orioles before pulling his right gluteus muscle Wednesday, was back in the lineup last night for Rochester as the designated hitter.

"I'm sure this probably won't be very long," Roberts said. "I'm assuming it'll be until he's healthy."

This is Roberts' third stint with the Orioles, and the second one didn't go as well as he hoped. Given the chance at the everyday second baseman's job, Roberts hit .234 in 36 games before being sent back down to Rochester.

Two weeks later, he's back.

"The last two years have kind of been a roller coaster," Roberts said. "But that's part of the job. You deal with it the best you can."

Hargrove said Roberts will be used mostly off the bench this time, either as a pinch runner or a pinch hitter. "I don't know that Brian will play a whole lot, like he did when he was here last time," Hargrove said.

Roberts did say his parents are ready to send his passport with the Orioles scheduled to play in Toronto on Aug. 2. Not having his passport cost Roberts a promotion July 17.

Met their match?

New York Mets officials spotted Orioles special assistant Dan Garcia scouting a Double-A Binghamton game this week, presumably to watch the Mets' switch-hitting shortstop prospect, Jose Reyes.

The Mets are looking for a pitcher, and should they decide to go after one of the Orioles' starters - Johnson, Sidney Ponson or Scott Erickson - the Orioles will likely make a run at Reyes, who had a triple in the Futures Game.

Garcia is seldom seen at Orioles games, but he has made a big impact on this team, with positive reports that spurred the team to land Jorge Julio for Ryan Minor, Gary Matthews for John Bale and Jay Gibbons in the Rule 5 draft.

Around the horn

Jeff Conine, who has been out since June 15 with a strained right hamstring, is close to restarting his running program, Hargrove said. Conine will need to prove he's 100 percent and then go on a brief minor-league rehabilitation assignment before coming off the DL. ... Mike Bordick (hairline fracture in right kneecap) began a more extensive exercise program yesterday, and the Orioles are still hoping he'll be ready in early- to mid-August.

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