Closer Johnson Solid, But Not Made Of Stone



August 22, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,

CHICAGO - -After his game-ending strikeout of the Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria with the tying run on third base Thursday, Orioles closer Jim Johnson punched his fist into his glove. It was a rare show of emotion from Johnson, who vowed to treat the closer role no different from his previous one as setup man.

It also was further proof that it will be easier said than done.

"I was pumped up, definitely," said Johnson, who earned his fifth save in the Orioles' 8-7 victory. "It was a big win. It wasn't just for me, it was the way the whole game played out. We were behind, we came back. That's a tough team, man. Anytime you can beat them at their place, whether it is one run or 10 runs, you want to win that game."

Since taking over the closer's role when George Sherrill was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Johnson is 3-for-3 in save opportunities, with two of them being of the one-run variety. In 8 1/3 innings, he has allowed one earned run and seven hits while walking two and striking out four. The run came in a nonsave situation.

"I sense that he wants to be the guy in the ninth inning," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I think he still has that mentality as a starter. He's real competitive. I think that helps him in the role now late in the game. He doesn't want to give up hits; he doesn't want runs scored on him."

The save ended a hectic three days for Johnson, who rushed back to Baltimore on Tuesday morning to be with his wife, Liz, who gave birth to the couple's first child, Abigail Grace, on Tuesday. Johnson was originally planning to stay in Baltimore for one more day but decided to head back to Florida for the final game of the series. The Orioles are glad he did.

Ain't it grand

Brian Roberts' grand slam Thursday was the fourth of his career but his first in more than five years. He last hit one June 20, 2004, at Colorado off the Rockies' Shawn Chacon. Three of Roberts' first 10 career home runs were grand slams.

Around the horn

Reliever Matt Albers' struggles continued in his first outing back at Triple-A Norfolk, as he allowed three earned runs on four hits in one inning. ... Trembley said Koji Uehara (partially torn flexor tendon in right elbow) is about a week away from throwing from the mound. Brad Bergesen (bruised left shin) hasn't been able to resume throwing.

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