- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 19, 2002

Jason Johnson and the Baltimore Orioles avoided salary arbitration yesterday when the right-hander signed a two-year contract extension worth $4.7 million.
Johnson, who led the Orioles in victories during a breakthrough 2001 season, will earn $1.8 million this year and $2.9 million in 2003, a hefty raise from his previous salary of $350,000.
The manner in which the 28-year-old turned his career around last year was just as staggering.
After an abysmal 2000 season (1-10 with a 7.02 ERA), Johnson established himself as Baltimore’s most reliable starting pitcher. He finished with a 10-12 record and 4.09 ERA, despite not winning after Aug. 6.
“This young man has made tremendous progress,” vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift said. “He’s a great competitor and has done a fine job. He’s working hard to be better this year, so we’re very pleased.”
Johnson will head to spring training next month with a chance to earn the Opening Day assignment. Veteran Scott Erickson, who is returning from elbow ligament replacement surgery, and Sidney Ponson also will be in the mix.
Johnson had to pitch his way onto the staff a year ago, but with the help of a new medical device and a renewed sense of focus, the one-time journeyman became a mainstay.
Johnson, who suffers from Type 1 diabetes, began wearing an insulin pump while on the mound to control his blood sugar level. He also attributed his success to an offseason visit with an eye concentration specialist, which helped him work on his focus.
By early August, Johnson had reached double digits in victories and was among the American League leaders in ERA at 3.18. Though he lost his final six decisions, Johnson wound up as the only Baltimore pitcher to make all 32 of his scheduled starts.
Following the season, he was named co-winner of the 2001 Tony Conigliaro Award, presented by the Boston Baseball Writers Association to players who have overcome adversity through spirit, determination and courage.
While the Orioles were able to come to terms with Johnson, they have not yet done so with Ponson, who is headed for arbitration. Ponson and his agent yesterday asked for $2.9 million and the team offered $2.5 million. The 25-year-old right-hander, who avoided the procedure last year when he signed a one-year, $2.1 million contract, is coming off a disappointing season in which he went 5-10 and missed the last five weeks with tendinitis in his right arm.

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