CHICAGO -- Orioles starter Tsuyoshi Wada struggled in his first rehab start, lasting 2 2/3 innings in Thursday afternoon's outing for Triple-A Norfolk, making it a strong possibility that he will get at least one more rehab start.
Wada, who started the season on the disabled list with left elbow discomfort, made two appearances in extended Spring Training before traveling to Gwinnett, Ga., for what the Orioles hoped to be a 100-pitch outing with Triple-A Norfolk. But Wada allowed three runs in the first inning and following a 1-2-3 second, couldn't make it out of the third, giving up six runs on six hits and four walks.
Wada also struck out one in the start, which was attended by executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who signed the 31-year-old lefty to a two-year guaranteed deal out of Japan this winter.
"We were talking to his interpreter and agent, and they are aware that he wasn't ready physically [to end spring] and everybody wants him to start right," manager Buck Showalter said. "If [his time in the Minors on rehab] has to be extended, I think we're comfortable doing that."
Johnson's stature growing among closers
CHICAGO -- Closer Jim Johnson might not be a marquee name, but the right-hander is well known around the American League, a reputation that stands to grow in his first full season as the Orioles' ninth-inning man.
"He's got great stuff," White Sox veteran Paul Konerko said after Johnson notched his fifth save of the season against Chicago on Tuesday night. "Probably some of the most underrated stuff if you ask any hitter in the league. There are a lot of guys you want to face before him. He has a big heavy sinker and a big curveball. You don't usually see those two things together.
"We've known about him. Everybody in the game knows, but my guess is he'll have a good year and you'll hear his name more."
Orioles third-base coach DeMarlo Hale, who spent six seasons in Boston prior to joining Baltimore this season, said Johnson's pitchability is what made him a guy the Red Sox had difficulty facing, with the right-hander's multiple weapons a topic of series meetings.
"I think he's respected among the people you compete with," Hale said of Johnson, who pitched to a 2.22 ERA in his final 56 games last year. "How the media perceives it, he's not the flavor and the name, but he's a guy at the back end of the bullpen that has got stuff to get you out. It's sinking, he's got a power fastball, breaking ball, and he pitches well.
"Hitters know about Johnson; It isn't just the Red Sox."
Slowed with a back injury this spring, Johnson got progressively better as Spring Training moved along and the 28-year-old, who maintained throughout camp he would be ready for the season, has gone 6-for-6 in save opportunities to start the season, extending his streak from last year to 14 straight.It is a far cry from Johnson's performance in the ninth inning in 2009, when he went 10-for-16 in save opportunities, his ERA jumping from 2.55 in the eighth to 6.11 in the ninth. The Orioles signed Michael Gonzalez to a two-year deal that offseason and after Kevin Gregg struggled in his first season closing in Baltimore, Johnson was officially named closer to start the season.
"[Being a] little bit wiser helps," Johnson said when asked what has changed for him since '09. "Little bit of luck never hurts, either. Not anything that's so different, but I think the experience goes a long way. Failure, you learn through failure, better than you do success.
"Also I have good support around me, good pitching coach, good catcher, other pitchers, defense behind me, all that plays a factor into it as well."
The second-longest tenured Oriole -- behind Nick Markakis -- Johnson was selected by the Orioles in the fifth round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft and made his Major League debut with one start in 2006. He made his first Opening Day roster in 2009 and after missing most of 2010 with injury, Johnson became the Orioles' most dependable reliever last season. He set career highs in games (69), wins (6), innings pitched (91) and strikeouts (58) and ranked among the AL leaders in relief innings, wins and ground-ball percentage.
"If I do what I feel like I'm supposed to be doing, I don't care if anybody really pays too much attention," Johnson said of his under-the-radar status. "You can get lost here, I think, but that doesn't really make too much of a difference to me."
All-Star ballot unveiled; online voting Friday
CHICAGO -- Help reward the Orioles who are off to a hot start this season by sending them to the 2012 All-Star Game, with online voting set to start on Friday and Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, Nolan Reimold, Robert Andino, Mark Reynolds, Wilson Betemit, Nick Markakis and Chris Davis on the ballot.
Wieters was last year's O's rep, while Jones was an All-Star in 2009 and Hardy went in '07 as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Beginning Friday, fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or via your mobile device -- using the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot until Thursday, June 28, at 11:59 p.m. ET.Fans can also once again participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will have the opportunity to select three players in each league who they would most like to see participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby. The 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby -- part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day -- will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the United States beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Monday, July 9.
Roberts to join Orioles for trip to Anaheim
CHICAGO -- Infielder Brian Roberts will be accompanying the Orioles to Anaheim, a positive sign given that the initial plan was for Roberts, who is on the disabled list with a concussion, to return home after the first two legs of the team's three-city road trip.
"I know he was trying to make up his mind [on Wednesday]," manager Buck Showalter said of Roberts, who had to be cleared by his doctors as well. "That's good, nothing bad there."
Roberts did some pregame workouts with special assistant Brady Anderson and has been arriving early to the ballpark to get his work in and not disrupt the 25 guys getting ready for the game. Showalter has said that the team will always make room for Roberts to get his work done, with hitting coach Jim Presley spending time with Roberts early Wednesday afternoon.
Thursday's news that Roberts will travel to Anaheim furthers the growing optimism around that the second baseman, who hasn't played in a Major League game since May, will return at some point this season. Roberts has no timetable, but he is hitting and fielding with the next big step forward to send him out to get some at-bats for a Minor League affiliate.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.