Steve has never been on the radar as a core pitching prospect. A throw in on the Josh Bell / George Sherrill deal. A home town kid with a Dad that works for MASN - One of the "Why Not?"guys. After being removed from the 40 man roster and being claimed in the rule five draft he toiled in anonymity. Almost like organizational fodder. Then he re-signed with the Orioles as a free agent. I was told that he was promised a real shot. Rumblings are that his former club the Dodgers were interested in him as well. He got to go to the Arizona Fall League as a result of his quick free agent signing. Steve pitched well in Arizona and rumors of a new pitch in his arsenal were heard. Johnson finished the AFL season with 15 strikeouts and six walks in 21 1/3 innings. He was in the Major League camp up until the last week. And in the bullpen even after he was reassigned. He was the Orioles forgotten man. He was the one who warmed up in case there was a tenth inning. And often there was. I asked him several times if he was scheduled to pitch that day when I chatted with him, he seemed to be completely out of that loop. His father was sad that he had not pushed him to seek an opportunity that would give him a chance to live that dream that he had when he was drafted by the Giants from the Orioles and spent his first big league camp with the likes of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.
I thought he was throwing about 90 mph but when I checked, I found that he had touched 94. And then there was that split fingered pitch. Dave had told him that if he wanted to ever make the majors, he needed to come up with a swing and a miss pitch. He seems to have.
Steve is not on the 40 man roster, he will not be called up to the big club before Berken and Tillman. But in Norfolk, he is quietly putting up a season that fulfills the promise that he never had.
He has 23 strike outs in 22 innings pitched. And a 2.38 ERA. "Why Not?'
Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board