Johnson working toward landing Opening Day spot
Limited by injuries the past two seasons, righty taking part in offseason workouts
BALTIMORE -- Seeking a spot on the 2014 Opening Day roster, right-hander Steve Johnson has been spending a lot of his offseason at Camden Yards as one of several Orioles participating in workouts with strength and conditioning coaches Joe Hogarty and Ryan Crotin.
"It's been really good, been doing it for about two months now," said Johnson, who goes four days a week and has been joined by Steve Clevenger, Ryan Flaherty, Darren O'Day and Tommy Hunter, along with some of the organization's Minor League players. "I'm getting stronger. The weight is not an issue. I'd like to lose a little more before Spring Training, but I'm getting stronger so I'm not really worried about it. It's more about building and being a lot stronger for next season so that hopefully, if that was related in any way to me getting injured, that doesn't happen again."
Johnson was limited last offseason due to a late-season knee injury and suffered a lat strain in Spring Training and an oblique injury in June. He hopes a full offseason of getting in shape will help him avoid the disabled list entirely, and said Tuesday that he's focused on making the Opening Day roster.
"It's just going in there earning a spot, showing them how I've worked out in the offseason to get where I am.," Johnson said earlier this week at the OriolesREACH annual holiday kids party. "And going in there, hopefully earn a spot. you never know what can happen. Obviously, I know they are going to sign some guys, they always sign a lot of depth. Spring Training will have a lot of competition, obviously even with the guys already on the team. It's always a tough battle, just like last year.
"Hopefully I can do a little bit better, I know a little bit more what I have to do because I had to last year. So just go out and prove I'm healthy and ready to go."
The 26-year-old Baltimore native went 1-1 with a 7.47 ERA in nine games (one start) for the Orioles last season. Johnson went 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 games (four starts) his rookie year in 2012. He could be used as a starter or reliever in the spring, but with an option remaining -- meaning the O's can send him to the Minors without him being exposed to waivers -- it will be tough for Johnson to crack the roster.
"I'm hoping to be good enough to be able to earn a spot, even with the option," Johnson said. "It's something you don't really think about unless you have to, I guess. But, yeah, they have some guys without options and I'm just hoping to be able to earn it outright."
Johnson, like many of his teammates, was hit hard by the organization's decision to trade closer Jim Johnson to Oakland this offseason.
"That was a rough one because you know it's a business and they've got to do some things to make the team better," Johnson said. "Jim was a good friend of mine, he kind of took me under his wing when I got called up and made me feel comfortable being on the team. So, it's always tough to lose someone like that. At the same time, you know they are doing it for a reason, you have faith that they are going to put out the best team that they can for this year.
"I am just hoping to be on the team when all is said and done and I'm hoping, even if it's not right away, that I can come up at some point and compete for a spot."
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.