Johnson set to make season debut for O's

Johnson set to make season debut for O's

MINNEAPOLIS -- Orioles right-hander Steve Johnson joined the team in Minnesota on Friday afternoon in advance of his first start of the season on Saturday.

"My goal was to break with the team," said Johnson, who suffered a right lat strain late in camp to take him out of the running. "Unfortunately, it couldn't happen. I was just frustrated to not break with any team, to be stuck in extended [spring]. Had to wait and have it heal, and glad to get the opportunity [now]."

Johnson was a pleasant surprise for the Orioles last season, going 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 games, including four starts. His last Major League start came Sept. 29 against Boston, and the 25-year-old said it helps to have the confidence that comes with a solid rookie season. In Norfolk, he started out on a rehab assignment and pitched two games before he was officially optioned to the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate.

"I've only had a couple of starts, but I've felt good," said Johnson, who went 1-1 with a 4.41 ERA in three Triple-A games. "My command has been there. I haven't walked that many guys. All my stuff felt really good last time. It might be only one of the first couple of starts of the season where they're letting me go all the way, but I feel really good."

The Orioles, who will likely option a reliever to clear a roster spot for Johnson, have off-days on Monday and Thursday and could go with a four-man rotation for a little while.

"It kind of changed the way you look at it," manager Buck Showalter said of the rare two off-days in one week potentially changing the roster construction. "We'll see. [Johnson] looks good. I thought some of the inactivity he had, he had kind of gotten away from some things because he had to physically. He worked hard to get in good pitching shape."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.