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[IP] O's sign Johnson to two-year extension

 &ArticleID=20020119-90839575">O's sign Johnson to two-year extension</A> 

O's sign Johnson to two-year extension

Mark Zuckerman

Published 1/19/2002

     Jason Johnson and the Baltimore Orioles avoided salary arbitration 
yesterday when the right-hander signed a two-year contract extension worth 
$4.7 million.
     Johnson, who led the Orioles in victories during a breakthrough 2001 
season, will earn $1.8 million this year and $2.9 million in 2003, a hefty 
raise from his previous salary of $350,000.
     The manner in which the 28-year-old turned his career around last year 
was just as staggering.
     After an abysmal 2000 season (1-10 with a 7.02 ERA), Johnson established 
himself as Baltimore's most reliable starting pitcher. He finished with a 
10-12 record and 4.09 ERA, despite not winning after Aug. 6.
     "This young man has made tremendous progress," vice president of 
baseball operations Syd Thrift said. "He's a great competitor and has done a 
fine job. He's working hard to be better this year, so we're very pleased."
     Johnson will head to spring training next month with a chance to earn 
the Opening Day assignment. Veteran Scott Erickson, who is returning from 
elbow ligament replacement surgery, and Sidney Ponson also will be in the 
     Johnson had to pitch his way onto the staff a year ago, but with the 
help of a new medical device and a renewed sense of focus, the one-time 
journeyman became a mainstay. 
     Johnson, who suffers from Type 1 diabetes, began wearing an insulin pump 
while on the mound to control his blood sugar level. He also attributed his 
success to an offseason visit with an eye concentration specialist, which 
helped him work on his focus.
     By early August, Johnson had reached double digits in victories and was 
among the American League leaders in ERA at 3.18. Though he lost his final 
six decisions, Johnson wound up as the only Baltimore pitcher to make all 32 
of his scheduled starts.
     Following the season, he was named co-winner of the 2001 Tony Conigliaro 
Award, presented by the Boston Baseball Writers Association to players who 
have overcome adversity through spirit, determination and courage.
     While the Orioles were able to come to terms with Johnson, they have not 
yet done so with Ponson, who is headed for arbitration. Ponson and his agent 
yesterday asked for $2.9 million and the team offered $2.5 million. The 
25-year-old right-hander, who avoided the procedure last year when he signed 
a one-year, $2.1 million contract, is coming off a disappointing season in 
which he went 5-10 and missed the last five weeks with tendinitis in his 
right arm.
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