9/1/2014 5:18 P.M. ET
Johnson to become first to play for all AL East teams
By Brittany Ghiroli and David Wilson / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- When Kelly Johnson finally suits up in an Orioles uniform and takes to the diamond, he will become the answer to a trivia question. The utility man will be the only player in MLB history to play for all five teams in the American League East.
He arrived at Oriole Park at Camden Yards before Monday's series finale against the Twins and is active as part of September callups and after years of walking down the tunnel to the visiting clubhouse, he gets to call his favorite ballpark in the division home.
"I've always liked it here," said Johnson, who first played at Camden Yards as a member of the Braves in 2009. "As a kid, this was one of those ballparks you watch on TV. It's cool. I enjoy playing here. It's up there overall in the game."
Johnson was acquired in the second of two trades the O's made on Saturday. Baltimore traded second baseman Jemile Weeks and infielder Ivan De Jesus, both of whom were playing the Triple-A Norfolk, to the Red Sox for Johnson and third baseman Michael Almanzar. Johnson began the season with the Yankees and was sent to Boston in a deal at the Trade Deadline.
Since joining the Red Sox, Johnson has had trouble getting on the field. Last-place Boston hasn't had much need for a 32-year-old utility man, so Johnson only played 10 games in all of August.
"They obviously decided they were going to get a chance to see some guys pitch, play, young guys, see what they had," Johnson said. "Obviously, being a free agent and not being one of their guys, it was tough to sit around."
With the O's, he'll have some sort of role. He provides infield and outfield depth to the club and adds another left-hander to a righty-heavy roster. While Steve Pearce continues to nurse an injured abdominal muscle, Johnson can also serve as the Orioles' backup first baseman.
"He can play a couple different positions and we've been trying to balance out our lineup with the addition of some left-handed bats," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said on Saturday after Baltimore landed Johnson and White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza, who reported on Sunday.
And as important as anything is his familiarity with the AL East. The O's play their final 23 games against the division beginning on Friday against the Rays.
For the Orioles to reach the postseason for the second time in three years, they'll need to finish strong against familiar opponents. For a new acquisition, Johnson is as familiar with the remaining schedule as it gets.
"It's nothing new. I've been everywhere. I've played everywhere," Johnson said. "It's just going to be fun to go and compete against guys I played with and at the same time, like I said, we're in first place. It doesn't get any better."
Hardy day to day after leaving with lower back spasms
BALTIMORE -- Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy exited Monday's 6-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins prior to the eighth inning with lower back spasms and is considered day to day.
"He kind of wanted to continue, but I didn't want to take the chance of getting him worse," manager Buck Showalter said of Hardy, who missed five games with back spasms in April.
"I didn't like his last at-bat, I noticed he looked a little different and I had J.R. [John Russell] during the at-bat, I said, 'Check with him.' He did. Said it tightened up on him a little bit."
Hardy batted in the top of the seventh, reaching on an error by Minnesota third baseman Trevor Plouffe and eventually scoring on a game-tying three-run home run by catcher Nick Hundley. He said his back spasmed up several times on Monday, but Hardy seemed hopeful this time he wouldn't miss any time.
"Similar, but not even close to the degree that it was," Hardy said after Monday's game of how they compared to his back spasms in April. "I mean, what happens is it spasms up and it completely locks up on me and that's when I miss a week. This was just it would grab on me. Probably three, four times today but it didn't lock up. Probably a good thing I got out of there."
Hardy, who hit five of his nine homers in August, said he would hydrate a lot over the next 24 hours with the hope that he's back in Tuesday's starting lineup.
Asked whether the hot, sticky weather caused the spasms Hardy said, "I always sweat a lot. ... Hot game, I'll lose eight pounds and the next day I'm back to normal. I drink a ton of water and everything else. I don't know. Could be from the heat."
O's bring up Saunders, Meek as rosters expand
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles added a pair of pitchers with September's expanded rosters, selecting Joe Saunders' contract and recalling Evan Meek from Triple-A Norfolk prior to Monday's game.
Meek, who was part of the Opening Day roster, was not in the clubhouse while it was open to the media but is expected to be joined by fellow righty Ryan Webb on Tuesday. This is Saunders' first time with the Orioles since signing a Minor League contract on August 1 and he's been used exclusively as a reliever for Norfolk.
"It's kind of a breath of fresh air if you will," said Saunders, who was released by the Royals and pitched to a 6.13 ERA in eight starts for Texas earlier this year. "Does that say my starting days are over? In my opinion, probably not. I feel like I probably wasn't 100 percent after I got banged in the foot, maybe tried to come back a little early. I think there's plenty more in the tank."
For now, the 33-year-old Saunders will be used in a role similar to long man T.J. McFarland, with manager Buck Showalter also saying Saunders -- who pitched to a 1.50 ERA in 10 games for Norfolk -- could make a spot start if needed.
"Obviously, Joe has a lot more track record and a lot more experience," Showalter said. ""It's a seamless fit in the clubhouse. It's a guy that everybody knows. He's pitched some big games for us."
The biggest was for the American League Wild Card in Texas in 2012, a game that Saunders went 5 2/3 innings and held the Rangers to one run, giving the O's their first playoff win since 1997.
"It's up there for sure," Saunders said of where that game ranks in his 10-year career. "The top couple starts of my career so far. Hopefully there's more to come. That was a special game for sure."
Ubaldo shaky in first true O's bullpen experience
BALTIMORE -- During the Orioles' closer-than-it-should-have-been 12-8 win against the Twins on Sunday, manager Buck Showalter decided it would be a perfect opportunity to try Ubaldo Jimenez out of the bullpen. Showalter had already seen his former starting pitcher come out of the 'pen once, after a rain delay against the Cubs a week earlier, but he doesn't really consider that a relief appearance -- Jimenez was able to essentially treat it like a start.
Jimenez entered with a seven-run lead in the bottom of the ninth and walked the leadoff man. Then he surrendered a double to Brian Dozier and walked two of the next three batters. Those left at Oriole Park at Camden Yards booed the O's $50 million offseason acquisition off the field.
"Yesterday was really the first time, for me, he really came out of the 'pen," Showalter said. "Hopefully, it'll be a little better next time out. It's frustrating for us because we know the level that he's capable of."
Now the challenge for Showalter becomes finding times to use Jimenez in favorable situations for the righty. He had seven days off between outings, which was too much, Showalter said.
One option could be to have Jimenez start next Friday during a doubleheader against the Yankees in Baltimore. Showalter will have to get him on the field sometime before then, though.
"I'd like to get him back out there," Showalter said. "He's handled it as well as one can."
• Pearce, who has been out with that right abdominal strain since midway through the Orioles' win against the Twins on Friday, should be available for some in-game action in the next few days.
"He's doing good," Showalter said before Monday's game. "I can tell by his body language and his face. If it's not in the game today in an at-bat or playing first base, I think you'll see him get a little test run here in the near future -- hopefully some time during the Cincinnati series."
• Relief pitcher Ryan Webb is expected to join Baltimore on Tuesday. He has been dealing with a minor shoulder issue that has kept him out the past few days with Triple-A Norfolk.
"If everything responds well from yesterday today, he'll be here tomorrow," Showalter said.
• The O's are sending Minor Leaguers Dariel Alvarez, Buck Britton, Mike Ohlman, Henry Urrutia, Christian Walker, Brian Ward, Oliver Drake, Eddie Gamboa, Preston Guilmet, Brock Huntzinger, Chris Jones, Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright to Sarasota, Fla., to be on call for the Orioles.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.