08/05/2002 1:13 pm ET
MLBeat: Johnson progressing
By Becky Dubin Jenkins / MLB.com
TORONTO -- Right-hander Jason Johnson threw three simulated innings Monday morning at SkyDome, and he and manager Mike Hargrove said his injured right shoulder feels "great."
Johnson, who last pitched July 22 against the Blue Jays, could be activated off the DL as soon as Friday, which would be his next turn in the rotation. Johnson is eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday.
As Johnson (3-8, 4.44 ERA) has recovered from the shoulder tendinitis that has bothered him since his July 12 start against Oakland, John Stephens has filled in. The 22-year-old right-hander from Australia got shelled in his Major League debut Tuesday against the Devil Rays. Stephens (0-1, 13.00) also started Sunday against the Blue Jays and gave up four earned runs in four innings but received a no-decision.
After Sunday's game, Hargrove said, "If we do decide to send [Stephens] back to Rochester, it'll be a little easier to do that. I think he'll leave here with a lot better taste in his mouth than he would if it would have gone in the other direction (sending him down after the loss to the Rays)."
Stephens, the organization's pitcher of the year in 2001, will no doubt be called up once rosters can expand in September.
Back in the field: It seems as if Chris Richard's surgically repaired left shoulder is feeling good enough for him to play the field. Five days after being activated from the 60-day disabled list, Richard on Monday started at first base and hit fifth in the lineup.
When Richard joined the team Wednesday in Tampa, he wasn't sure when he would feel well enough to test the arm -- though playing the outfield was not an option because throwing from that distance would likely strain it. Apparently, he's confident enough that playing the infield will be fine.
Richard, who went on the DL on March 30 after November surgery, had plenty of time to work on his swing -- and has shown the O's as much in the five games he has served as designated hitter. He has had two hits and has scored at least one run in each of his games back.
"It's real obvious he's had a lot of time to work on his hitting," Hargrove said. "His mechanics and his fundamentals are very sound right now -- and I don't know that they were ever as consistently as sound last year as what I saw [Wednesday]. From what I've been told, he was swinging the bat at his rebab assignment."
"I had a lot of time to work on things, so I tried to take advantage of what was available and just try to find a consistent swing," he said. "There are still things I do that I need to stay on top of. But for the most part, I'm just trying to stay short to the ball and get through the ball."
Also of note about Monday's lineup: Tony Batista served as the DH and was replaced at third base by Jose Leon. It was the first time Batista has not manned the hot corner all season.
Mexican battery Catcher Geronimo Gil has caught 15 of Rodrigo Lopez's 18 starts this season. According to Elias, Gil and Lopez are the first Mexican-born pitcher and catcher combination on the same team since 1987, when Alex Trevino caught five of Fernando Venezuela's games.
Fantasy Edge: Gary Matthews, who hit in the No. 3 spot on Monday, has hit safely in a career-high eight straight games. During that span, he has batted .419 with three doubles, a home run and five RBIs.
Becky Dubin Jenkins is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.