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Steve Johnson

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Note: This page is for Steve Johnson, the pitcher who made his major league debut in 2012; for others with similar names, click here

Steven David Johnson

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Steve Johnson is a pitcher who made the majors in 2012. He is the son of former Orioles pitcher and Baltimore hometown hero Dave Johnson.

Johnson was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 13th round of the 2005 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Clair Rierson and pitched for the GCL Dodgers that season, going 0-2 with a 9.53 ERA in six games (three starts). He split 2006 between the Ogden Raptors (14 starts) and Jacksonville Suns (two relief appearances), going a combined 5-5 with a 3.67 ERA. In 2007, he went 3-6 with a 4.85 ERA in 18 games (16 starts) for the Great Lakes Loons.

Johnson split 2008 between the Loons (13 starts) and Inland Empire 66ers (11 starts), going a combined 12-8 with a 4.32 ERA. He led all Dodgers farmhands in wins that year. He started the 2009 season in the Dodgers' organization, pitching for the 66ers (18 games, 16 starts) and Chattanooga Lookouts (two starts). On July 30, he was traded with minor leaguer Josh Bell to the Baltimore Orioles for George Sherrill. He finished the season with the Bowie Baysox. Overall, he went a combined 12-7 with a 3.41 ERA in 27 games (25 starts).

The Giants took Johnson in the 2009 Rule V Draft. He was returned to the Orioles the next spring. He fell to 7-8 with a 5.09 ERA for the 2010 Baysox, walking 78 in 145 innings. He was second in the Eastern League in walks (one behind Chorye Spoone) and tied for 4th with 12 wild pitches. He also tied for first with 28 starts and was 5th with 128 strikeouts (between Rudy Owens and Scott Barnes). In '11, he starred for Bowie (5-1, 2.16, 59 K in 58 1/3 IP, .94 WHIP) but sputtered for the Norfolk Tides (2-7, 5.56, 47 BB in 87 1/3 IP. He fared well in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League, posting a 2.96 ERA. He started 2012 much sharper with Norfolk with a 2.97 ERA and .197 opponent average after 16 games (11 starts), though his record did not reflect it at 3-6.

On July 2, 2012, he was recalled from the AAA Norfolk Tides to Baltimore to give the team's bullpen a hand after a series of games in which their starters were knocked out early, but he did not get to make his major league debut, being sent down on July 4th when Chris Tillman was called up to make a start. He returned to Baltimore after the All-Star break when Brian Matusz was demoted.

Johnson got to make his first big league appearance on July 15th, relieving Luis Ayala in the 8th inning with a 3-0 deficit against the Detroit Tigers. He walked his first two batters in the majors - Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila - but then retired Ramon Santiago and whiffed both Don Kelly and Austin Jackson. In the 9th, he got Quintin Berry to fly out before yielding Miguel Cabrera's 20th homer of the year. Steve retired Prince Fielder on a fly and Brennan Boesch on a grounder. He returned to Norfolk immediately afterwards, and when he next stepped on a major league mound, it was as an emergency starter on August 8th, facing the Seattle Mariners following a 14-inning marathon that had depleted the Orioles' mound staff. He was excellent, striking out 9 batters in 6 innings while giving up only 2 runs, and was credited with his first major league win, 9-2. Steve's victory came 23 years to the day after his father had recorded his first big league win, on August 8, 1989. His father had pitched a complete game, defeating the Minnesota Twins, 6-1, and almost managed to propel to Orioles to a division title. Steve's win tied the Orioles for a wild card spot in the American League, making many believe that there was some Johnson family magic at work. Indeed, when he beat the Blue Jays, 4-1, in the first game of a doubleheader on September 24th, he improved to 4-0, 1.62, in an eerie replica of his father's memorable performance in an earlier unlikely pennant race. He finished the season with that record and a 2.11 ERA in 12 games, but was not used in the postseason.

Steve began 2013 on the disabled list, then made a few starts with Norfolk before rejoining the Birds. The O's gave him a one-off start against the Minnesota Twins on May 11th, but the usually weak-hitting Twins managed 6 runs on 7 hits off him in 4 innings, and he was saddled with an 8-5 loss. He promptly returned to AAA and was only 1-2, 5.49 in 4 starts when he got another call to Baltimore, with the Birds struggling for pitching. This time, he was assigned to a role as a long reliever, and on May 29th, he picked up his first win of the year when he took over for Chris Tillman in the 5th inning with the Orioles down 6-2 against the Washington Nationals. He held his opponents hitless and scoreless for two and a third innings and was still on the mound when his teammates mounted a six-run outburst in the bottom of the 7th, taking the game, 9-6.

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