- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2002

NEW YORK When Yankee Stadium officials announced at 5:30 p.m. that last night's game had been postponed, the Baltimore Orioles' clubhouse suddenly sprang to life. Players scurried to pack their belongings, obviously excited to be heading home sooner than expected.

Not everyone was thrilled with the rainout, though. For right-hander Jason Johnson, it meant one more day of waiting before he can return to the mound.

Johnson, on the disabled list since April 25 with a fractured right middle finger, was scheduled to be activated to start tonight at Camden Yards against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Instead, last night's scheduled starter, rookie Rodrigo Lopez, will go, with Johnson pushed back an extra day.

"I'm pumped to pitch tomorrow," Johnson said before learning of the rainout. "I can't wait. I've been 100 percent for about four, five days now."

It has been a long, slow recovery for last season's staff leader in victories (10). When Johnson first went on the DL after slamming his finger into the ground during a routine "shadow" bullpen drill, he predicted he could be back within three weeks.

He was right in one respect: His finger was fully healed by then. His arm strength, however, was nowhere close to 100 percent. It took a trip to the Orioles' extended spring training camp and two rehabilitation starts before Johnson was ready to return. Even now, he'll be limited to about 85 pitches for his first start.

"The first four or five days, I could only lob the ball because my finger wasn't 100 percent yet," he said. "It took me about three weeks to get my arm back in shape. It was rough it felt like spring training."

Despite the freak injury, Johnson is not removing the shadow drill from his between-starts workout. In fact, he performed the routine for the first time yesterday, mimicking his pitching motion without a ball in hand.

He did hold a balled-up jersey in his right hand, an alteration that should keep his fingers from slamming into the ground.

"With the shirt, I have my hand clenched the whole time, so it's not going to hit the ground," Johnson said. "I'm not going to stop doing [the shadow drill] because it helps me get in shape for the next time that I do pitch."

Who's headed out?

Johnson's activation means a player currently on Baltimore's roster must go. Manager Mike Hargrove wouldn't tip his hand yesterday, but it looks like struggling right-hander Calvin Maduro could be headed for the DL himself.

Maduro, who was demoted to the bullpen last week, has been battling a strained right forearm since spring training. Though the club has never said the DL was an option, Maduro's name was not included with his bullpen mates on yesterday's lineup card; he returned to Baltimore on Wednesday.

If Maduro is not placed on the DL (or released), the Orioles likely would send right-hander Sean Douglass back to Class AAA Rochester, where he could pitch in the starting rotation.

Extra bases

With yesterday's rainout, the Orioles wound up finishing a tough stretch of games against the Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics and Yankees with an impressive 8-7 record. "Given where we're at and where we want to go, it's been a good stretch for us," Hargrove said. "I think it says a lot about this ballclub."

No makeup date was announced for last night's rainout, but it is likely to be played Sept.9, an off day that falls just before the teams open a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.

Outfielder Luis Matos was activated off the DL and assigned to Class AA Bowie. Matos, who spent last season between Class AAA Rochester and the Orioles, broke the hamate bone in his left hand during spring training.

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