FORT MYERS, Fla. -Jim Johnson, perhaps the Orioles' best pitcher last year, will be shut down at least a week because of a right shoulder impingement, the latest injury to affect a pitching staff that is thinning by the day.
Johnson felt his shoulder tighten while throwing his final few pitches during his latest outing Wednesday. He expects to be ready for Opening Day in three weeks, but the injury is alarming because it's the same one that knocked him out for the final month of 2008.
"We're trying to figure it out so it doesn't become a problem during the season," said Johnson, who confirmed that a magnetic resonance imaging taken recently on his shoulder showed no structural damage. "This isn't as bad as the end of the season."
Johnson is taking medicine to reduce inflammation and said he has no plans to pick up a baseball for a couple of days.
"Time is the big luxury that we have. We're taking it little by little right now," said Johnson, who went 2-4 with a 2.23 ERA in 54 appearances last year. "We don't want to just treat the symptoms; we want to figure out why we're having the problem."
Orioles manager Dave Trembley said it's possible Johnson might need a surgical procedure to fix the situation next offseason, but he's not worried about Johnson's availability for Opening Day.
"I think in the long run something may have to happen to him," Trembley said. "But I talked to the doctors yesterday, I talked to Jim yesterday. And, honest to God, we're not concerned about it. We have been told it is not something to be overly concerned about."
Roberts' leaving OK
Within an hour Saturday, Trembley received calls from a team official and second baseman Brian Roberts. He told both the same thing: Roberts absolutely should join Team USA to replace the Boston Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia (lower abdominal strain) in the World Baseball Classic.
Roberts' hiatus, however, means Trembley will be without three-fourths of his starting infield. Third baseman Melvin Mora and shortstop Cesar Izturis are representing Venezuela in the tournament. Once they are back, Trembley said the trio and first baseman Aubrey Huff must spend time on the back fields practicing defensive drills together.
Trembley also joked that the Orioles have to stop getting Red Sox manager Terry Francona out of jams. Francona was the American League manager in last year's All-Star Game, in which closer George Sherrill was forced to pitch 2 1/3 innings.
"Here we go again, helping out the Red Sox," Trembley joked. "We had to help out [Francona] last year in the All-Star Game with Sherrill, and now we have to help them out with Roberts. I wonder when ... they are going to start helping me out. Are they going to rest their regulars when we go into Fenway?"
Bass changes up
Right-hander Brian Bass, who improved his chances of making the club by allowing two runs (one earned) over three-plus innings yesterday, debuted his new changeup grip against the Red Sox. Last week, Bass and pitching coach Rick Kranitz scrapped the old one because he couldn't locate it consistently. He threw with the new grip six to eight times yesterday and got one out with it.
"I was able to keep it down," Bass said. "So that's a positive since it's the first time it's been in the lineup for two-plus years. It felt pretty good. I have been working pretty hard on it."
Around the horn
Orioles infielder Donnie Murphy was hit on the left elbow by a pitch from Jonathan Papelbon in the fifth. He left the game but will be OK, Trembley said. ... John Parrish was originally planning to fly to Baltimore to have his left shoulder examined, but he'll instead stay with the club and see team doctor Andrew Cosgarea, who is scheduled to be in town Thursday. ... The Orioles brought six players over from their minor league camp to help in Fort Myers yesterday.