Mar 5, 2013; Dunedin, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Johnson throws a warm up pitch before the bottom of the first inning of spring training against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: Johnson makes it tough on Showalter

The Baltimore Orioles are trying to work out a starting rotation by this time in two weeks, however the guys that are vying for spots aren’t really making that decision very easy on manager Buck Showalter. And as Showalter himself would say, …that’s a good problem to have. In yesterday’s 7-1 win over Minnesota, Steve Johnson became the most recent pitcher to give Showalter pause in terms of how he looked in a game. Johnson’s line: 4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K (Johnson was also credited with the win). After the game Johnson said he felt he was “effectively wild” in that he could have pounded the strike zone a little better, but yet he was recording outs.

Courtesy of Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Probably the best part of the current competition is that the guys seem to be welcoming it. That, and they’re striving to make each other better. Granted at the end of the day only five of them are going to be starting pitchers, however they all seem to know that each of them will ultimately have a role to play one way or the other. I’ll be honest; I’m a bit surprised that the Orioles haven’t dealt one or two pitchers perhaps for some offensive support or perhaps a prospect, however given Dan Duquette’s track record this past off season I would be willing to bet that it’s not for lack of trying. Odds are that other teams only want the likes of Bundy or Gausman, which is something that’s just not happening.

The Orioles already led 2-0 when J.J. Hardy sent a two-run homer over the fence, breaking a 1-21 slump in spring training. Granted these games don’t count per se, however that’s been a tough pill for Hardy to swallow. Matt Wieters followed suit with a two-run homer of his own, as the Birds jumped all over Minnesota. Jim Johnson and Darren O’Day each pitched scoreless innings as well, and Jair Jurrjens pitched three very solid innings at the back end of the game. With that said Jurrjens had Brandon Boggs down to his final strike in the ninth inning, and the final strike of the game at that. A pitch that looked to be on the black was ruled ball three, and Boggs hit the next pitch out of the ballpark. The Orioles would have loved to have blanked Minnesota, however a W’s a W. The pitching that the Birds got yesterday combined with the offensive output is a dangerous combination.

The Orioles’ B-team dropped a 5-3 decision in Clearwater to Philadelphia, with Jason Hammel taking the loss. Hammel gave up four runs over 77 pitches, and said after the game that it was just one of those days where he “didn’t have the feel.” I think most Orioles fans would tend to give Hammel a pass on that given his track record last year, along with his injuries. If there’s anyone that will be ready to go when the curtain comes up, it’ll be Jason Hammel. The Orioles have an off day today before heading to Ft. Myers on Tuesday to play the Boston Red Sox. They’ll return home on Wednesday to play Toronto, a game in which Adam Jones is expected to make his return after the WBC. With opening day being two weeks from tomorrow, it would stand to reason that Showalter would at some point start to put guys into some sort of rotation so as to culminate with the “staff ace” starting on April 2nd.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles Steve Johnson

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