Statistically speaking, Jason Johnson has not pitched appreciably better as the Baltimore Orioles' fifth starter than did Doug Linton or Rocky Coppinger, his predecessors in the role. But Manager Ray Miller has committed to staying with Johnson longer than the others because he sees something beneath the numbers.

Johnson, a 25-year-old right-hander, is 0-1 with an 8.84 ERA in four starts. Most recently, he lasted just 2 2/3 innings, getting a no-decision in a 6-5 win over Kansas City on Saturday. But Miller said Johnson will remain in the rotation for now, and will pitch here Sunday against the White Sox.

"He hides the ball well, and it's got a little extra explosion on the end," Miller said. "It's just a matter of him being consistent with the change-up and breaking ball. What happened in [the third inning Saturday] was he couldn't get the breaking ball over. And when you can't get anything over, you have a tendency to overthrow the fastball because they know what's coming. I think he'll settle down."

Johnson, acquired during the spring in a trade with Tampa Bay, said he already knows what his problem was Saturday and has already begun working to fix it.

"I was leaving the ball up," Johnson said. "I've already discussed it with [pitching coach Bruce] Kison. On my next sideline [throwing session], I'm going to work on it, and I'm going to straighten it out. And I can guarantee you that my next start will be absolutely different."

Pitching Rotation in Flux

Because of off days on successive Mondays and the incongruity of a six-day week with a five-man rotation, Miller is having a tough time settling on his pitchers for the coming week, which includes key series with Boston and New York. Essentially, Miller must choose between starting his pitchers with an extra day of rest twice, or start somebody on three days' rest once.

"I like giving everybody the extra day once," Miller said. "It freshens everyone up. But I don't know about twice." . . .

Second baseman Delino DeShields, who missed Sunday's game to be in Atlanta with his wife, Tisha, was expected to rejoin the club tonight, following the birth of their third child. . . .

Catcher Lenny Webster, on the disabled list since June 7 with a sprained ankle, likely will begin a rehabilitation assignment with either Class A Frederick or Class AA Bowie on Monday. . . .

The Orioles signed one of their four first-round draft picks today. Outfielder Larry Bigbie, the Orioles' third first-round pick (21st overall) out of Ball State University, worked out with the club before tonight's game. The Orioles have now agreed to terms with 22 of their 53 draft picks, but Bigbie is the first first-rounder to sign. . . . Right fielder Albert Belle donated 60 uniforms to a Little League program in Natchez, Miss.