There were no guarantees when Jason Johnson was called up from Class AAA Rochester to make a few starts for the Baltimore Orioles. And there still are none. But with Scott Kamieniecki battling lost confidence and a bad back at Rochester, and with Orioles Manager Ray Miller becoming increasingly fond of Johnson, it appears more likely Johnson could remain with the Orioles for a while.
Johnson, 25, has not exactly overwhelmed anybody, going 0-1 with a 9.00 earned run average in two starts, with a third start scheduled for Saturday in Florida. In his last start Saturday in Oakland, he drew Miller's ire with his excruciatingly slow pace and lasted only three innings.
Miller spoke to Johnson about it on Sunday, and Johnson told him he and rookie catcher Tommy Davis "were not necessarily on the same channel," Miller said.
"He didn't use it as an excuse," Miller said. "He said he felt strong and the ball stayed up."
However, Miller likes Johnson's low- to mid-90s arm, and especially likes the way Johnson has been quick to throw hard and inside. He knocked down the Athletics' Ryan Christenson with a high fastball in the third inning Saturday, and as Miller pointed out, the A's did not score again in the game.
"I like him," Miller said. "I like guys who aren't afraid to say, `Give me some of that plate back.' . . . I think he'll settle in and do all right."
Kamieniecki, 35, who accepted a demotion to Rochester after two disastrous starts for the Orioles, left after three innings in his last start at Rochester, complaining of a stiff lower back. Tonight he yielded nine hits, six earned runs and two home runs in a 6-4 loss at Louisville. He struck out six and walked two.
Webster Eyes Return
Catcher Lenny Webster, who has been on the disabled list since May 13 with a sprained right ankle, will catch in the bullpen Tuesday and Wednesday, and continue to hit in the cage, with an eye toward returning to the Orioles by the end of a weekend home series against Philadelphia.
"We're going to try to get him involved," Miller said, "and see how he holds up." . . .
Twenty-four hours after Scott Erickson's disappointing start in Oakland, Miller still had no answers. "You almost have to dismiss it" as an aberration, he said.
Erickson gave up seven earned runs in just 2 2/3 innings Sunday in an 11-5 loss, dropping his record to 1-7. Miller said it was a prime example of how Erickson would benefit by having an off-speed pitch.
"It would buy him some more time," Miller said. "He's always been a tough read. He can retire 15 in a row, then give up a double, double, homer, and then retire the next 12. . . . I was fully distraught because it was a big game. We were looking at going 4-2 on the road trip and not using the bullpen. I was counting on that one." . . .
Third baseman Cal Ripken, who has been elected to 10 consecutive American League all-star teams (14 total), leads in early fan balloting. Ripken had 85,545 votes through this weekend, ahead of second-place vote-getter Travis Fryman of Cleveland (53,061).
Catcher Charles Johnson, who is fifth behind Ivan Rodriguez (Texas), Sandy Alomar (Cleveland), Jorge Posada (New York) and Dan Wilson (Seattle), is the only other Oriole in the top five at his position. . . .
Orioles cleanup hitter Albert Belle has one RBI in his last 13 games.