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Needing extra bullpen help after two long nights against the Blue Jays in Toronto, the Orioles recalled right-handed pitcher Steve Johnson and placed struggling reliever Pedro Strop on the 15-day disabled list prior to Saturday’s game.
The decision to send Strop to the DL with what’s labeled as “a lower back strain” will be met with skepticism as the 27-year-old has struggled immensely going back to mid-August of last season. Strop’s last appearance came on Thursday when he allowed a grand slam to Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion in a 12-6 loss.
Strop has an 0-2 record with a 6.11 earned run average in 22 appearances this season. The right-hander has struggled immensely with his control, walking 14 batters in 17 2/3 innings of work and has struck out 17 while allowing 14 hits.
He had appeared to ease concerns recently with a 13-appearance stretch in which he allowed only one earned run in 11 1/3 innings, but many of those outings came in low-pressure situations as manager Buck Showalter had clearly avoided using him in close games whenever possible. That successful run came to an end Monday night when Strop suffered the loss in a 6-4 defeat to the Yankees in which he allowed two earned runs and recorded only two outs in the 10th inning.
His difficulties go back to mid-August of last season after Strop had posted a 1.20 ERA with 20 holds in 52 2/3 innings through Aug. 17 of the 2012 season. Since then, Strop has a 6.61 ERA and has walked 26 batters over 31 1/3 innings in 41 regular-season appearances.
The move is retroactive to Friday, meaning Strop is eligible to return on June 8, but the Orioles could send him on a minor-league rehab assignment of up to 30 days, which you could expect them to do in hopes of straightening out the power-arm reliever’s struggles. In many cases, a club can typically afford to keep a struggling middle reliever on its roster if that pitcher can at least provide some length in blowout situations or games that go into extra innings, but Strop couldn’t offer that, further diminishing his current value.
The Orioles can only hope this DL stint will turn Strop’s misfortunes around as he was an important part of their success through mid-August of last season. He’s out of options but has an impressive arm that you’d hate to give up on considering he’s only 27 and is still relatively inexperienced considering he became a pitcher in 2006 after beginning his professional career as an infielder.
The 25-year-old Johnson made one start for the Orioles in Minnesota earlier this month, allowing six earned runs in four innings of work on May 11. He has gone 1-2 with a 5.49 ERA in four starts with the Tides this season and was scratched from his Friday start in case the Orioles wanted to summon him to Toronto to serve as an extra bullpen arm.
A welcome addition to the Orioles staff during the stretch run last season, Johnson was 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 games, four of which were starts.