The Orioles announced they’ve outrighted right-handed pitcher Steve Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk, leaving the St. Paul’s product’s future with the organization up in the air for the time being.
The 27-year-old Johnson can refuse the assignment and elect to become a minor-league free agent, but it remains to be seen what he elects to do after an injury-riddled season in which he pitched only 47 2/3 innings while dealing with shoulder problems. He underwent surgery on Sept. 24 to remove a bone spur in his shoulder and is expected to be cleared well ahead of spring training.
The thought behind making the move now was that it would have been more difficult sneaking Johnson through waivers when he is presumably healthy at the end of spring training compared to now as he recovers from the surgical procedure. He is out of minor-league options.
Johnson is the son of former Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson and made his major league debut in 2012. In parts of two major league seasons, Johnson has gone 5-1 with a 3.67 ERA in 21 appearances (five starts) covering 54 innings.
Though not blessed with impressive velocity, Johnson has averaged 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings at the major league level and profiles as a solid long reliever if his injury concerns are behind him.
He was 0-3 with a 6.23 ERA in 17 starts this season between Norfolk (13), Single-A Aberdeen (three), and the Gulf Coast League Orioles (one) while dealing with the shoulder ailment.