Can Orioles thrive with tough stretch to end season?
BALTIMORE – Two high school rivals were assigned adjoining lockers on Thursday. Steve Johnson, who was recalled from Norfolk and joined Steve Clevenger, who was brought back earlier in the week.
Johnson and Clevenger were teammates with Norfolk and now with the Orioles, but they first knew each other when they played against each in Baltimore-area high schools.
The son of former Orioles pitcher Steve Johnson played for St. Paul’s, and Clevenger, a catcher, went to Mount St. Joseph’s.
Johnson, who was 2-3 with a 4.11 ERA in 10 games with Norfolk, has had a difficult year, losing time with an oblique strain and a back injury.
“Obviously, it’s not the type of season I would have hoped for. Obviously, a lot of injuries. But I’m back now and I’m healthy and able to help,” Johnson said.
Johnson was not in the initial round of callups, but when the Orioles decided to send Zach Britton to Norfolk, they summoned Johnson, who is 1-1 with a 7.82 ERA in six games with the Orioles this season. A year ago, Johnson was 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 games.
“This year with the injuries and everything I’m trying to really get back to where I was and get better. And I’m doing everything I can to do that. And I think this offseason, I’ll hopefully go in healthy and have a real offseason to do everything I need to do. And make sure that type of season maybe doesn’t happen again,” Johnson said.
The season hasn’t been a positive one for Johnson.
“Frustrating, for me. Obviously, I would have loved to have helped the team more than I have and done better when I have been able to be here. But we’re still in it and I’m happy to be here and help in any way I can. Hopefully we can finish strong,” Johnson said.
Clevenger grew up in Pigtown, within walking distance of Oriole Park before moving to Linthicum. He came to the Orioles from the Chicago Cubs along with Scott Feldman in July in a trade for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop.
“Coming home, it’s my hometown team, it’s the team I watched growing up. A lot of special memories here, fun getting a chance to play up here in the playoff push,” Clevenger said.
Clevenger, who has played in 79 games for the Cubs is trying to limit the ticket requests he’s been inundated with. He and Johnson have something else in common. Both are rabid Ravens fans.
“I love the Ravens. Hopefully they can have a repeat season and win the Super Bowl again,” Clevenger said.
Manager Buck Showalter, whose home is not far from St. Paul’s, enjoys the team’s emphasis on local players.
“You kind of look at it through their eyes, it’s a small world,” Showalter said.
Orioles scout Dean Albany and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette are trying to corner the market on players from the mid-Atlantic. One potential target could be Gavin Floyd, an Annapolis native, who pitched for the Chicago White Sox before having elbow surgery in May.
“Dean’s made me aware of where Gavin Floyd’s from. Those are tiebreakers for us. In the June draft, they have a separate board of guys from Maryland and nearby that all things being equal, we don’t want to miss on. I think we’re proud of that. Every time I see that a guy’s from around here, I put it on the radar screen,” Showalter said.