TORONTO - Orioles pitcher Jason Johnson will face live hitters tomorrow in his latest step - with a typically long stride - toward returning to the rotation.
Johnson has done everything else while recovering from tendinitis in his right shoulder. He has played long toss, thrown off a mound and simulated his motion without releasing the ball. All that remains is staring down a few batters and being activated Wednesday.
"My shoulder feels great. It's really strong. It feels stronger than it has all year," said Johnson, who went on the disabled list retroactive to July 23 after a magnetic resonance imaging revealed his condition.
"Maybe it feels this way because the tendinitis is finally gone. I was told it probably had been there before I broke my finger."
Johnson also went on the DL in April after slamming his hand on one of Camden Yards' bullpen mounds while shadow throwing.
Tomorrow's routine will amount to a simulated game, with Johnson throwing 15 pitches, resting, then throwing 15 more. He'll go three or four "innings."
"Everything feels really, really strong," he said.
Conine getting closer
A second day of hard running has brought Jeff Conine closer to a rehabilitation assignment.
Conine hasn't played since June 14 because of a strained right hamstring. He aggravated the injury while attempting to run the bases at Camden Yards, which has delayed his return to the Orioles.
Manager Mike Hargrove said if Conine avoids another setback, he could report to one of the minor-league affiliates when the team returns home. Hargrove estimated that Conine would need 15 to 25 at-bats.
The Orioles completed a minor-league transaction when they traded infielder Nick Garcia, who had been playing shortstop at Single-A Frederick, to the Boston Red Sox organization.
Garcia became the player-to-be-named in the trade earlier this summer that brought pitcher Mike Drumright to Triple-A Rochester. Drumright is 5-4 with a 2.76 ERA in 16 games at Rochester, and 6-5 with a 3.63 ERA this season, including his previous stint at Triple-A Pawtucket.
It has been an eventful season for Garcia, one he would probably like to forget. He missed a month while recovering from injuries suffered in a car accident - first baseman Alfredo Leon, who also was in the vehicle, joined him in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League as they rehabilitated- and Garcia returned to the Keys on Thursday.
Garcia, a 19th-round selection in 1999, was batting .253 with one homer and 21 RBIs in 58 games.
Red Sox grumbling
While many of the Orioles felt cheated by Friday's suspensions and fines handed out by Bob Watson, the vice president in charge of discipline for Major League Baseball, there also was plenty of grumbling inside the Red Sox's clubhouse.
Manager Grady Little was fuming because Watson didn't seek his input on last Sunday's brawl at Fenway Park. Watson spoke with Hargrove while bypassing Little for the third time this season.
"The most disturbing thing is that nothing is discussed with a first-year manager before these things are levied, like they are being discussed with the other manager," said Little, who replaced Joe Kerrigan during spring training. "But I'm learning. Maybe I need to call the next day. Maybe that's the proper procedure."
Little wasn't completely ignored. He received a $1,000 fine for comments made after the game.
Hargrove said he contacted Watson rather than wait for a call that likely wouldn't have come.
Meanwhile, four Boston players were fined $500, including Shea Hillenbrand, who said he was punished for being "mauled" by David Segui. Though $500 isn't much to a major-leaguer, Hillenbrand said it amounted to a car payment.
"Tell him I'll pay his fine," Segui quipped.
Around the horn
Beau Hale, the 14th player taken in the 2000 draft, has been promoted from Frederick to Double-A Bowie. Hale was 3-1 with a 4.20 ERA in his past five games, and 8-8 with a 5.02 ERA in 22 starts. He went 1-5 with a 5.11 ERA in 12 starts at Bowie last season, and didn't pitch after Aug. 8 because of a sore shoulder. ... Trainer Richie Bancells checked on Chris Singleton in the first inning after the Orioles' center fielder appeared to hurt himself while running to second base. Singleton remained in the game and hit a two-run homer. ... Tony Batista was 1-for-14 lifetime against Chris Carpenter before going 2-for-2. ... Toronto closer Kelvim Escobar was 7-0 lifetime against the Orioles before blowing a two-run lead and losing Friday.