MINNEAPOLIS -- Orioles right-hander Steve Johnson joined the team in Minnesota on Friday afternoon in advance of his first start of the season on Saturday.
"My goal was to break with the team," said Johnson, who suffered a right lat strain late in camp to take him out of the running. "Unfortunately, it couldn't happen. I was just frustrated to not break with any team, to be stuck in extended [spring]. Had to wait and have it heal, and glad to get the opportunity [now]."
Johnson was a pleasant surprise for the Orioles last season, going 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 games, including four starts. His last Major League start came Sept. 29 against Boston, and the 25-year-old said it helps to have the confidence that comes with a solid rookie season. In Norfolk, he started out on a rehab assignment and pitched two games before he was officially optioned to the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate.
"I've only had a couple of starts, but I've felt good," said Johnson, who went 1-1 with a 4.41 ERA in three Triple-A games. "My command has been there. I haven't walked that many guys. All my stuff felt really good last time. It might be only one of the first couple of starts of the season where they're letting me go all the way, but I feel really good."
The Orioles, who will likely option a reliever to clear a roster spot for Johnson, have off-days on Monday and Thursday and could go with a four-man rotation for a little while.
"It kind of changed the way you look at it," manager Buck Showalter said of the rare two off-days in one week potentially changing the roster construction. "We'll see. [Johnson] looks good. I thought some of the inactivity he had, he had kind of gotten away from some things because he had to physically. He worked hard to get in good pitching shape."
Casilla may ditch switch-hitting, bat right-handed
MINNESOTA -- Orioles infielder Alexi Casilla has been working on his right-handed swing, an experiment that could eventually see him phase out his status as a switch-hitter.
Casilla, in the starting lineup Friday against Twins righty Mike Pelfrey, said he was approached by the team a few weeks ago about making the move, and he has been doing work with hitting coach Jim Presley in the batting cages and during pregame BP.
"They think I can stay better on the ball, on top of the ball better from my right side," Casilla said. "I don't know. Let's see. Let's see what happens. It's baseball.
"If I do good against righties from my right side -- it's a test now for me. And I'm very confident I'm going to do good."
Casilla is 0-for-5 in two games hitting as a right-handed batter against a right-handed pitcher, and he said he will start Friday's game as a lefty, but he could move over depending on how he's feeling.
"I'm not there yet. I'm hoping he has three hits tonight left-handed," O's manager Buck Showalter said. "It's not like there's a huge split difference between the two. I don't think we have enough sampling to be making those decisions right now.
"It's not like it's his first year in the big leagues. I'm not going to throw that out there tonight. I hope tonight is the start of some really good things for us from that standpoint."
Markakis not allowed to use custom bat on Sunday
MINNEAPOLIS -- There was some clarification necessary Friday, as a couple of players expressed confusion regarding the bats they had intended to use on Mother's Day.
"The fact is that players can use [Mother's Day] bats from any bat manufacturer, as long as the bat manufacturer makes a modest donation to the Susan B. Komen Foundation," Matt Bourne, VP of Business Public Relations for Major League Baseball said in a statement.
MLB also confirmed on Friday that while the use of pink bats manufactured by other accredited companies is approved, only Louisville Slugger can have a logo on a pink bat.
Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis and Twins infielder Trevor Plouffe's bats are manufactured by MAX bats, and are black with a pink circle that includes the company's logo.
Major League Baseball encourages players to wear pink equipment on Sunday with players around the sport donning pink bats, cleats and wristbands to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer. The game-worn equipment is later auctioned off on MLB.com to support breast cancer research. Both Markakis and Plouffe have mothers who are cancer survivors.
Louisville Slugger, MLB's official bat, started the initiative in 2006 and donates the pink bats every year, also making a sizable monetary donation to the cause. Spokesman Rick Redman said those donations total up to roughly a quarter-million dollars.
"It's raised tremendous amount of awareness for the cause," Redman said. "We said from when we started in 2006, if this effort causes one person to get the breast cancer screen that changes their life, it's worth it.
From the very beginning, all bat manufactures are welcome to make pink bats from the players who swing the bats. The fight against breast cancer is far more important than any kind of petty type of battle. We would never want anything like that."
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.