The second opinion on Orioles reliever Jim Johnson's sore elbow confirmed he has a slight ligament tear and will be shelved for at least two months, with the possibility remaining that he could eventually choose season-ending surgery.
Johnson, 26, met with renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews on Thursday in Pensacola, Fla., and was diagnosed with a slight tear of his ulnar collateral ligament, which Andrews said would keep Johnson sidelined for eight to 10 weeks.
The diagnosis was similar to that of the Orioles' orthopedist, Dr. John Wilckens, who said Johnson had a strained UCL with "possibly a low-grade tear" and estimated he would be out about six weeks.
"It's the same exact thing that Dr. Wilckens said. Dr. Andrews just confirmed it. The only thing that has changed is the timeline," Johnson said in a phone interview. "I'm going to pretty much do nothing for about a week. That's the doctor's orders. We're going to try to give it a week off and then start treatments again."
Andrews told Johnson that if he did not respond to treatment in about a month, ligament reconstruction — or Tommy John surgery — would be something to consider, though it would keep him out of action for at least a year.
"It's an option, but it's an option I'm not doing yet," Johnson said. "I'm going to go other avenues before we consider that."
Although they wouldn't comment specifically on it, the Orioles don't view Andrews' diagnosis as a setback, but as a conservative approach. The club remains confident that the injury will heal over time and surgery will be avoided.
Johnson was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk on May 1 after posting a 6.52 ERA and allowing 15 hits and four walks in 92/3 innings. He pitched one scoreless inning for the Tides before seeking medical attention for his elbow, which he said has bothered him since his first appearance of the season on Opening Day.
Before Thursday's game, Orioles manager Dave Trembley talked about young players who have kept injuries quiet while attempting to pitch through pain.
"I think when you're still trying to establish yourself, you want to play, you want to be out there," Trembley said. "You don't see down the road that maybe you're doing something to hurt your career three, four, five years down the road. They don't see that. They see now."
Hernandez to stay in rotation
Orioles right-hander David Hernandez has lost 11 straight decisions, but he is not in danger of losing his job.
Trembley said Thursday that Hernandez (0-5, 5.84 ERA) needs to stay away from the big inning and get some wins, but he also said there has been no discussion about removing him from the rotation and replacing him with someone from Triple-A.
"He has pitched well, but he's going to have to go to the next level … to learn how to pitch through some of those things and not let it get the best of him," Trembley said. "As far as a discussion to replace him, we have not had that."
A need for speed
The Orioles have stolen nine bases in 35 games this season, fewest in the major leagues. Nine major leaguers have stolen more bases than the entire Orioles roster.
Cesar Izturis, Julio Lugo and Brian Roberts, who played in just four games this season before getting injured, are tied for the Orioles' lead with two each.
That could change with the promotion of Corey Patterson, who has stolen 184 bases in his career, including 82 with the Orioles in 2006 and 2007.
"When he got here, I said, 'You will be the leadoff guy. You've got the green light. Bunt, steal, make some things happen for us,'" Trembley said. "I think you will see him pick it up."
Patterson's speed is needed, Trembley said, especially for a club that is second in the majors in grounding into double plays.
"When you hit into  double plays, it's refreshing to have somebody who can" run, Trembley said. "We're not the Lone Ranger in that department if you look at major league baseball and the lack of speed, quickness. It's nice to have those guys."
Around the horn
The Orioles are 9-4 in games in which they have scored four or more runs. They are 2-20 when they have scored three runs or fewer. … Luke Scott's grand slam Thursday was the second of his career. The first came May 29, 2009, against the Detroit Tigers' Dontrelle Willis. … The Orioles won their second consecutive home series. Those are the only two series victories they have this year (out of 11).
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