5/27/2013 4:46 P.M. ET
Showalter continues to support closer Johnson
By Brittany Ghiroli and Derek Wetmore / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter wouldn't comment on Jim Johnson's availability, but after throwing back-to-back days, the struggling right-hander wasn't expected to be used in Monday's game against the Nationals.
Johnson, who surrendered his fourth blown save in five opportunities Sunday in Toronto, threw 37 pitches in a two-out outing in which he was charged with four runs on four hits and a walk. He also threw an inning on Saturday, picking up his 15th save, and wouldn't have been used, regardless of his recent performance, in a third consecutive game this early in the season.
Showalter, who has continued to stand by Johnson, was asked on Monday if it was easier to trust a guy who has a track record like his closer, who converted 51 of 54 saves to lead the Majors last season.
"I don't know about easier, you always get to the situation in the game, and what's your best option?" Showalter said. "And also, what affects the rest of your club? It's like if this guy is not going to start tonight, then who? And then what does that affect? … I've got a pretty good idea of who we are and what we've got to do to get to where we want to go."
Johnson, who has allowed 12 earned runs over his last three innings, will continue to get the ball in the ninth inning and get every opportunity to work through this rough patch. The Orioles don't have a clear backup option at this point, and the bullpen, the team's strength last season, has picked up a lot of innings and required some roster management to keep everyone healthy.
One of the team's leaders, Johnson has been working with pitching coach Rick Adair to make some adjustments, and Showalter said he "may have had his best inning the day before. He was filthy. I think that's what was probably frustrating for him [Sunday]."
Hunter says bruised hand 'not that bad'
BALTIMORE -- Orioles right-hander Tommy Hunter was confident he had avoided any serious injury to his right hand on Monday morning, showing reporters the slightly swollen palm a night removed from barehanding a hard hit ball from Toronto's Jose Bautista.
"It's fine," said Hunter, who had an initial X-ray on Sunday night come back negative. "Kind of like taking one off the shin, I guess. It's not that bad at all. It's going to be. Got me in the meat of it. But it'll be all right, hopefully. Maybe I'll get a day off today. We'll see. I'll go play catch, maybe."
A second X-ray done Monday was also negative.
"There's different levels of X-rays, so we are going to do the Level 2," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before Monday's results were known. "He feels good, all things considered. So I think we dodged an injury, not necessarily the ball."
Hunter wasn't available on Monday and was shooting to be an active pitcher again for Tuesday night's game against the Nationals. The 26-year-old Hunter, who allowed one run on four hits over 1 1/3 innings Sunday, worked out of a bases-loaded jam to end the seventh inning and has been on an impressive run. Since April 12, Hunter is 3-0 with a 1.07 ERA in 15 outings, striking out 17 and walking five.
Gausman learning how to handle big league hitters
WASHINGTON -- Rookie right-hander Kevin Gausman spent most of Spring Training in Major League camp, but he's still learning the difference between big league hitters and those in the Minors.
Gausman said he's already made tweaks for Tuesday's start against the Nationals, based on things he learned from his debut Thursday in Toronto.
"They're going to hit mistakes," Gausman said of Major League hitters. "Looking back on my last start, I watched video of it the day after, and all the balls that they hit really hard for extra-base hits were balls that I missed my spot or didn't make the pitch that I was trying to make. So that, more than anything, just trying to get back to what I was doing in [Double-A] Bowie: leaving the ball down and continue to get ground-ball outs."
The players in the big leagues have a better physical skill set, but the 22-year-old said the biggest difference is in their game plan and preparation.
"You know, more than anything, the guys up here just have more of an approach at the plate," Gausman said. "Their first at-bat, they might watch a couple pitches and then the next at-bat, they're coming up looking for a fastball the first pitch. So they kind of have a plan."
Nathan Karns will start against Gausman on Tuesday. Karns, 25, was the Nationals organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2012 and will be promoted from Double-A.
Reliever Burnett claimed by Cubs
WASHINGTON -- The Orioles lost reliever Alex Burnett on Monday, when the right-hander was claimed by the Chicago Cubs off waivers.
Burnett appeared in two games with the Orioles this year, giving up three runs on four hits and two walks over 1 1/3 innings. He was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for rookie Kevin Gausman on Thursday.
Burnett was acquired on a waiver claim from Toronto after the Blue Jays claimed him from the Twins on March 29 and designated him for assignment.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. Derek Wetmore is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.