MILWAUKEE, SEPT. 2 -- It may be too late to do much good, but the Baltimore Orioles' injury fortunes finally are reversing. Dave Johnson, the team's winningest pitcher, might be activated from the disabled list within a few days and said today he'd like to get a start shortly thereafter.

He threw for 20 minutes on the sideline at County Stadium this afternoon, proclaiming afterward his strained lower back has healed sufficiently for him to return to action.

He first had problems during his last victory a month ago; he left that win over the Kansas City Royals with leg cramps and was diagnosed two days later as having a strained back. Now, after several attempts at pitching through the injury and a series of shots to relieve the tightness, he seems eager to resume his season.

And for good reason. He's 11-8 but uncertain where he'll stand next spring amid the team's youth movement. He'll also need to renegotiate his contract during the offseason, so each victory becomes another negotiating tool.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm ready to go out there and try it for an inning or two," he said. "Maybe then I can get back into the rotation and get four or five starts before the year's up. But it's not my decision."

The Orioles have plenty of space since rosters were expanded to 40 players Saturday, and pitching coach Al Jackson said he expects Johnson to be activated Tuesday. But Manager Frank Robinson said only, "We'll see."

Johnson said he does not have any suspicions that the club will be reluctant to activate him to reduce his chances of collecting victories that could translate into a better claim for a salary boost. . . .

Left-handed pitcher Brian DuBois, 23, claimed off waivers from the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, said he expects to pitch for the Orioles down the stretch -- perhaps as soon as this week.

He missed his last scheduled start at Toledo, the Tigers' Class AAA affiliate, with a sore elbow.