BALTIMORE -- Orioles right-hander Jim Johnson has been shut down with the same right elbow discomfort that has hampered him all season. President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said prior to Wednesday's game against Oakland that the plan is to let Johnson rest for three to five days and hope the situation improves, so he can get back up on the mound.
"In speaking to our medical people, right now they think that's the best course of action," MacPhail said.
Johnson, who was diagnosed with a slight tear in his right elbow, had been throwing off a mound with no reported problems last week at the team's Minor League complex in Sarasota, Fla. O's pitching coach Rick Kranitz said the decision to back off on Johnson is more of a precautionary move, and hoped to touch base with the right-hander by telephone on Wednesday night.
Johnson was 1-1 with a 6.52 ERA this season and had allowed 15 hits and four walks over 9 2/3 innings when he was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. After tossing one scoreless inning for the Tides, Johnson decided to get his elbow examined. He was diagnosed with a strained ulnar collateral ligament and a "low-grade tear," something he had been pitching with since the second game of the season.
Johnson was initially placed on Norfolk's disabled list May 7, and the expectation was he would be sidelined for eight to 10 weeks if all went well. While this setback could be minor, if Johnson's elbow doesn't improve he could be facing season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Pie isn't ready to rejoin O's in Boston
BALTIMORE -- Both the Orioles and Felix Pie were optimistic that the energetic outfielder could rejoin the team in Boston, however, that isn't going to happen.
"He needs a few more games," said Baltimore president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, who didn't rule out the possibility of Pie -- who is dealing with an upper back strain -- being activated for Monday's series in Detroit.
"[Pie] needs a little more time, so when he gets up there he'll be ready," MacPhail said.
Pie, who moved his rehab to Double-A Bowie on Tuesday night, played nine innings in the field for the second time and went 4-for-5 with a double and a run scored in Bowie's 6-5 win. He played left field and went 1-for-4 with a walk in Wednesday's game.
"We would like to see him play the outfield and throw some more if he's going to come up and step right into the lineup right away," Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel said.
Pie was hopeful that he would be ready for Friday, and told MLB.com on Tuesday that he was in no pain and had no trouble throwing.
"Right now, the hardest thing is seeing pitches [at the plate]," Pie said. "But that will come with more and more [at-bats]."
Still, given how long Pie has been sidelined -- he was placed on the 60-day disabled list April 16 -- Samuel said the organization will be cautious in making sure the outfielder is 100 percent.
"An area where they're being a little more cautious with him is his throwing, that's probably the one that's been the slowest [to come around]," Samuel said. "I would like to see him take more infield, throw. He is hitting the ball.
"But we have to understand, we're almost halfway through the season and this is kind of his Spring Training right now. We have to be very careful so whenever he's here he's ready to help us."
An energetic presence, Pie was hitting .400 with two doubles, a homer and an RBI in eight games before hitting the DL. Without second baseman Brian Roberts (herniated disc in lower back), the expectation is Pie will assume the bulk of the Orioles leadoff duties when he returns.
Gonzalez's return on hold for time being
BALTIMORE -- After initially targeting an early July return, Orioles closer Michael Gonzalez won't be activated for this weekend's series in Boston and could be facing a post All-Star break return.
Gonzalez arrived in Bowie, Md. on Wednesday, and will start a rehab assignment for the O's Double-A affiliate on Friday. He is scheduled to pitch Friday, Sunday and Tuesday for the Baysox, which means the earliest he could rejoin the O's would be for the last leg of a 10-game road trip in Texas.
However, Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz didn't rule out the possibility that Gonzalez wouldn't be ready until the All-Star break, and called the lefty's rehab program "his Spring Training."
Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail acknowledged on Wednesday that Gonzalez is farther behind than outfielder Felix Pie, who will likely rejoin the team for Monday's series in Detroit.
Gonzalez appeared in two games for short-season Aberdeen this week, allowing two earned runs on five hits over 2 1/3 innings, and was clocked in the 90-91-mph range. While his velocity raised concerns in the initial stages of his rehab -- when he was clocked in the mid 80s -- Gonzalez's location is what has hindered his recent progress.
"His command was not where we want it to be," interim manager Juan Samuel said of Gonzalez's outing on Tuesday night. "His breaking ball is not where we think it should be. We're going to continue to monitor his progress."
Gonzalez, who has a left shoulder strain, was placed on the 15-day disabled list -- later transferred to the 60-day DL -- on April 10. He appeared in three games for the Orioles, pitching to a 18.00 ERA with two blown saves.
Gross makes return to Baltimore
BALTIMORE -- Oakland's visit to Baltimore gives A's outfielder Gabe Gross a chance to reconnect with his adopted hometown.
"I was born here," said Gross, who entered the world at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson on Oct. 21, 1979. "But I wasn't here long, only about six weeks."
Gross' father, Lee, was a center for the NFL's Baltimore Colts when his son was born. That was the final NFL season for Lee Gross, a product of Auburn who also played for the New Orleans Saints from 1975-77.
"His knees were pretty bad by then, and all he was doing was long snapping," said Gabe Gross. "After the season was over, we packed up and moved back to Dothan, Ala."
That's where Gross spent his childhood, though his Baltimore roots still create some occasional confusion.
"A couple of years ago, I got a letter from some woman who thought she might have had a connection to my family," he said. "She claimed that she was a babysitter of my mom's at one point. I was like, 'I don't think so.'"
-- Pete Kerzel
Right-handed reliever Cla Meredith cleared waivers and has accepted his assignment to Triple-A Norfolk. He was taken off the Orioles' 40-man roster when the Baltimore traded for Jake Fox. ... Wednesday's starter Kevin Millwood made his 400th career appearance and 392nd start. He ranks seventh among active pitchers in career starts. ... Baltimore's home game on July 24 vs. Minnesota has been changed from a 4:10 p.m. ET start time to 7:05 p.m. The game will air on MASN2 instead of FOX. ... Triple-A Norfolk right-hander Chris Tillman and outfielder Jeff Salazar were named to the International League All-Star squad on Wednesday. Tillman is 7-4 with a 3.07 ERA combined over two separate stints with the Tides, while Salazar is hitting .280 with 13 homers and 34 RBIs. ... Thursday is the last day for fans to vote their favorite players into the 2010 MLB All-Star Game. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. ET.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Noah Rosenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.