Until a couple of months ago, Orioles farmhand Steve Johnson was best known for being the son of former Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson. If he was known at all. It’s not like the baseball world was waiting with bated breath for the offspring of Dave Johnson to come and save the game. Dave Johnson’s claim to fame was that he led the AL in homers allowed in his one full season in the rotation (he ended his career in 1993 with a 22-25 record and a 5.11 ERA).
Now, back to Steve. Ignoring two emergency starts Johnson made in Double-A at the tender age of 18 in 2006, here’s how Steve has done in his intro to every level of baseball.
2005 Rookie ball: 0-2, 9.53 ERA in 11 1/3 IP
2006 Rookie adv: 5-5, 3.89 ERA in 78 2/3 IP
2007 Low-A ball: 3-6, 4.85 ERA in 81 2/3 IP
2008 High-A ball: 3-6, 7.10 ERA in 52 IP
2009 Double-A: 3-2, 2.84 ERA in 38 IP
2011 Triple-A: 2-7, 5.56 ERA in 87 1/3 IP
2012 Majors: 4-0, 1.62 ERA in 33 1/3 IP
Now, how exactly does one explain that? Johnson got the call for Baltimore in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader and shut out the Jays for five innings to pick up a victory. He’s won all three of his starts, striking out 22 in 16 innings in the process. Including his eight relief appearances, he’s fanned 43 batters in 33 1/3 innings.
Which is pretty awesome. Particularly from a guy who was a .500 pitcher and had a 4.17 career ERA in eight minor league seasons.
The Orioles singlehandedly kept the rumor mill churning this weekend. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the club is interested in making a play for free agent right-hander Lance Lynn, adding him to a list of potential candidates that also includes free agent righty Alex Cobb. The two are expected to command similar contracts in free agency, but Morosi notes that the Orioles may prefer Cobb based on his familiarity with the AL East.
Lynn, 30, is two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Despite missing the 2016 season, he bounced back with a respectable 11-8 record in 33 starts and complemented his efforts with a 3.43 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 over 186 1/3 innings for the 2017 Cardinals. He lost several days with a blister on his pitching hand in early September, but managed to avoid any major injuries and can reasonably be expected to shoulder another heavy workload in 2018.
Lynn may not be the Orioles’ first choice to beef up their starting rotation, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be in high demand as one of very few viable starters on the market this winter. The veteran righty rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals on Thursday and will likely be seeking a multi-year contract, one that Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch estimates around five years and $100+ million. If the Orioles are willing to bite that bullet, they’ll still need to compensate the Cardinals with their third pick in next year’s draft.