05/15/12 12:00 AM ET
After humbling skid, Johnson impresses O's
By Brittany Ghiroli and Greg Luca / MLB.com
"I was awful," Johnson said of an 0-for-28 start that saw his mechanics unravel as his frustration mounted. "I was sliding too much; my lower half was out of whack. I was swinging at everything. I was swinging at balls. When I swing at a ball, it's not good. It means I have no clue."
Johnson said on Monday he believes he's past those mechanical flaws, having spent a lot of time in the O's video room, watching film of himself from years past. The biggest adjustment for Johnson, who last played in the big leagues in 2010, has been getting his lower body back to where it was previously in his career, and he's hit .400 (8-for-20) with two homers and seven RBIs in his first seven games this month.
"I've been taking some pitches that before I'd be swinging at," said Johnson, who is well known for his patience when things are going good. "I've been taking some good pitches that -- body-wise, lower-half-wise -- make me feel good at the plate."
Asked if there was a doubt that Johnson -- who has dealt with multiple injuries, including multiple surgeries on his right wrist -- still had anything left in the tank, manager Buck Showalter admitted there's always some hesitation.
"We all have that emotion, but I get to see a lot of things that everybody else doesn't," Showalter said. "I get to see the day-to-day work and the want-to. Nick never gave in. He never gave me [the line], 'Well, my numbers will be there at the end of the year.' ... "Nick is just today. 'What can I bring today?' I don't think he ever assumes anything or takes anything for granted. With all that, he also knows the job description and the productivity that at some point has to be there. It's a lot easier to trust that it will come with the approach that he takes.
"You guys saw how we killed this guy in Spring Training because we wanted to make sure [he was healthy] before we made that commitment. So this was a guy that basically played every day in the spring, made all the road trips and never complained and whimpered. I think at times ... it helped him mentally to get over the fact that the wrist was sound."
After month with O's, Chen eager to learn more
BALTIMORE -- When Wei-Yin Chen took the mound April 10 to make his Major League debut against the Yankees, few knew what to expect.
The Taiwanese lefty had never appeared in a Major League game, giving Yankees batters very little frame of reference regarding what pitches he would throw or how he would throw them.
But Chen hardly had the upper hand -- he remarked before the game that he knew only the most prominent Yankees by name, citing the global fame of stars Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.
Chen allowed a home run to Jeter, the first batter he faced, but the lefty rebounded to give up only two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Now, more than a month later, Chen has the experience that comes with six solid starts, but he still has a lot to learn.
"I still have a hard time to remember everybody's name from each team," Chen said through his interpreter. "But I've experienced a couple of outings right now, so I can remember their swing, their batting or how they stand."
Chen hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any start this season and has been working on building up his stamina to pitch deeper into games.
On Thursday, Chen held the potent Rangers to two runs (one earned) in a season-high 7 2/3 innings, running his record to 3-0 and lowering his ERA to 2.43.
But while there was an element of surprise in Chen's six starts against unfamiliar foes, on Tuesday -- for the first time -- he will get a second look at an opponent.
"There's not many secrets in the game," O's manager Buck Showalter said. "They know his pitch sequence. They know what he features. There's a different look the first time they see him."
Chen said that being able to face the same lineup again hasn't changed his preparation.
His focus remains on going pitch by pitch, keeping the ball down and relying on his defense to make plays for him.
"I've still got my same routine," Chen said. "It doesn't matter if it's the Yankees or Boston or other teams; I still do my job."
Showalter said he's interested to see how Chen handles the adversity of a bad start, something he hasn't faced this season.
But until that happens, everything is positive for Chen. Not only is he pitching well, but he'll have his parents in attendance for Tuesday's game.
"That's pretty cool," Showalter said. "They're pretty excited. I tell you, they're all smiles, very happy with him."
Reimold may need second epidural injection
BALTIMORE -- Outfielder Nolan Reimold is not progressing the way the Orioles had hoped, and while Reimold -- who is on the disabled list with a herniated disc -- was scheduled to be examined by a team physician on Monday, manager Buck Showalter wasn't overly optimistic in his assessment.
"There doesn't seem to be a marked improvement we had hoped that Monday would bring," Showalter said of Reimold, who received an epidural injection in his sore neck on Friday.
"That's the potential, to do another one. Initially, it's set up as a series of three. But I'm not sure about when the next one could take place if [the team's doctors] feel like they may want to wait another day or two to see if this might resolve itself. I don't know; I just know that it didn't seem to be a whole lot of the marked improvement we had hoped to have today. But maybe that'll change between now and the time we leave."
Reimold last played on April 30, and the initial hope had been that he could be out on a rehab assignment and return on or around Wednesday, when he's eligible to come back. But that timetable has been pushed back since Reimold received the injection, and it could be delayed further should Reimold need another shot.
The Orioles received some good news on an MRI exam taken last week on right-hander Matt Lindstrom's right middle finger, with the injury being diagnosed as a ligament sprain. Lindstrom was placed on the 15-day DL on Friday, and he said the biggest relief was that there was no damage to the sheath, which would have required a considerably longer recovery period.
Reimold and Lindstrom will likely have to head down to extended spring camp in Sarasota, Fla., with outfielder Endy Chavez and infielder Mark Reynolds -- who are both dealing with left oblique strains -- also scheduled to head south.
Right-hander Tommy Hunter will start Wednesday's series opener in Kansas City, Showalter said on Monday. Hunter was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk last Monday before being called back up on Thursday and starting against the Rangers on three days' rest. Hunter gave up four runs on five hits in six innings, taking the loss.
Norfolk righty Joel Pineiro missed his most recent start to rest a sore right shoulder. Showalter expected that the issue would resolve itself. The O's signed Pineiro to a Minor League deal on April 11, and he has posted a 1-0 record with a 3.65 ERA in two starts with Norfolk.
Dana Eveland was available for the O's out of the bullpen on Monday. Eveland had his contract purchased and started against the Rays on Friday in place of Jason Hammel, who missed his regularly scheduled start due to a sore right knee.
Xavier Avery recorded his first Major League hit when he led off the bottom of the first inning on Monday with a double. In the fifth inning, the speedy outfielder tripled into the right-field corner to tie the score at 3. Avery had his contract purchased from Norfolk on Sunday and made his second consecutive start in left field on Monday.
Infielder Zelous Wheeler cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Double-A Bowie. Wheeler was designated for assignment on Friday to make room for Eveland on the O's 40-man roster.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. Greg Luca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.