MINNEAPOLIS -- Steve Johnson allowed six runs on seven hits and four walks in an 8-5 loss to the Twins on Saturday night and became the second consecutive starter to last just four innings, forcing the Orioles to option the right-hander to Triple-A Norfolk after the game to make room for some bullpen help.
With upcoming off-days on Monday and Thursday, the team doesn't need a fifth starter next week and they are expected to officially announce the corresponding move for a reliever prior to Sunday's game.
"We're not going to be short, I can tell you that," manager Buck Showalter said of the bullpen, which he has made a priority to protect since becoming manager. "We're not going to assume anything with Wei-Yin [Chen starting], especially with the conditions that we're playing in. "
"We've got two options. We had a couple calls in [to Norfolk] in the fourth inning when Stevie came out. I wanted to check on the health of one guy, and some other things before we try to make a decision. There's a 5:30 [a.m.] flight, gets in at 10:30. That's what he'll be on."
Showalter said that in a perfect world, the team would like to have a right-handed reliever working behind the lefty Chen, although he acknowledged that may not be the case. Options in Triple-A who haven't pitched lately include right-handed reliever Adam Russell, lefties Mike Belfiore and Daniel Schlereth and right-handed starter Jair Jurrjens, who is slated to start Monday for Norfolk.
Of those listed above, only Belfiore is on the 40-man roster. But given Brian Roberts' hamstring surgery, the Orioles could transfer him to the 60-day disabled list should they need to open a spot.
Orioles option Burnett to Triple-A Norfolk
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Orioles optioned right-handed reliever Alex Burnett to Triple-A Norfolk to clear a roster spot for Steve Johnson, who started against the Twins on Saturday night.
Burnett, 25, was recalled after Miguel Gonzalez went on the disabled list on Wednesday to give the Orioles another option out of the bullpen. Burnett has had two stints with the O's since he was claimed off waivers from Toronto on April 12. He made his Baltimore debut with a scoreless inning on Thursday.
"He's a guy I enjoy talking to," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Burnett. "He's alert, looks you right in the eye. He understands what's going on. [He said], 'I'lI keep doing the same things I did to get back here. I hope nobody gets hurt and I love the situation we have in Norfolk. If you got to be in Triple-A, that's the kind of club you want to be on.' He's real impressive. I was hoping to use him last night. The game kind of dictated a different feel."
Burnett has a 0.96 ERA over 9 1/3 innings in six games for Norfolk this season.
Hunter, McFarland give bullpen a boost
MINNEAPOLIS -- While Orioles closer Jim Johnson set an Orioles record on Friday night by converting his 35th consecutive regular-season save, there were some pretty impressive bullpen performances before him.
Tommy Hunter and T.J. McFarland combined to throw five scoreless innings, holding the Twins in check to allow the offense time to score nine unanswered runs and pull off the 9-6 victory.
Hunter went 2 1/3 innings, retiring all seven batters he faced to run his scoreless streak to 14 2/3 innings.
"He got a breaking-ball strikeout with [Aaron] Hicks," manager Buck Showalter said of Hunter, who hasn't allowed a run in his last nine outings. "He established the breaking ball to [Josh] Willingham, which allowed him to get him with a fastball. I think understanding, 'Sometimes I've got to pitch,' instead of just, 'See how hard I can throw,' he's capable of doing that."
Hunter followed McFarland, who entered the game in the fifth inning after Trevor Plouffe's double ended starter Jason Hammel's night. On for his first career back-to-back outing, the Rule 5 Draft pick allowed an inherited run to score, but held firm after that in an impressive 39-pitch outing, allowing two hits with a walk and a strikeout in 2 2/3 innings.
"I'm impressed with how he's handled it," Showalter said. "I have every reason to believe he's going to tell us he's ready to pitch today. I really like the way he's fit in with his teammates, too. They like the way he's handled himself here."
• Former Raven and Minnesota native Matt Birk was at Target Field for a home run contest prior to Saturday's game.
• Left-handed pitcher Jake Pettit picked up the win in his Triple-A Norfolk debut on Saturday, pitching 6 1/3 innings and allowing two earned runs to go with seven strikeouts. The 26-year-old lefty, a 42nd round pick in the 2010 Draft, led the Tides to a 3-2 victory over Syracuse.
• The Orioles entered Saturday with the most road wins in the American League (13), and the highest road winning percentage (.619).
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.