BALTIMORE, AUG. 18 -- Pitcher Dave Johnson's aching back took a turn for the worse today, so the Baltimore Orioles avoided a potentially trying roster decision and put him on the 15-day disabled list.

The Orioles were unsure Friday what move they would make to create room for Anthony Telford, who will make his major league debut Sunday as a starting pitcher against Oakland. Shelving Johnson was but one option of many.

But when the pain associated with his strained lower back intensified overnight and he couldn't promise Manager Frank Robinson he'd be ready to start sometime next week, the Orioles' decision was made easy.

"I didn't want to go on the disabled list," said Johnson, Baltimore's top winner at 11-8. "I didn't want it to come to that. . . . {But} there's no sense trying to push this thing. I'm not going to go out there again until I'm physically able to make the pitches I want to make."

His DL assignment was made retroactive to Wednesday, meaning he'll be eligible to return Aug. 30.

"We just want to give him the chance to let this thing heal," Robinson said. "It's what's best for him and what's best for the team." . . .

Ailing fellow pitcher Bob Milacki will throw off a mound Sunday for the third time since he went to the DL with a strained right shoulder. He's eligible to be activated Tuesday, but a cortisone shot Milacki received Thursday kept him from throwing for several days.