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The way players change teams these days, it’s not unusual for a former Oriole to come back to Camden Yards and play against his old teammates.
It happens just about every series.
But this one is a little different.
The Seattle Mariners are visiting Camden Yards for the first and only time this year. That means Nelson Cruz, the 2014 Most Valuable Oriole, is back again.
But there are two returning players who will generate a little more local interest – at least in terms of familiar faces in the stands.
The Steves have returned home.
Steve Clevenger, the reserve catcher who grew up in nearby Pigtown and went to Mount Saint. Joseph’s, and Steve Johnson, the right-handed pitcher who grew up in Kingsville and went to St. Paul’s, are back.
There have only been 23 Maryland-born players in the club’s modern-day history; Johnson and Clevenger played together and, by coincidence, came back together.
“It’s awesome to be here, but being on the other side is definitely odd for me, just walking in and passing the home clubhouse and wondering if I should peek in or not,” said Johnson, who pitched for the Orioles from 2012 to 2015. “It’s definitely different, but I’m glad to be here.”
Clevenger, who played for the Orioles from 2013 to 2015 before being traded this offseason to the Mariners in the deal that brought Mark Trumbo to Baltimore, had a similar experience as Johnson on Tuesday.
“It is kind of weird. You know, you grew up rooting for the Orioles and you come in here as a visiting player and, obviously, you want to win games while you’re here,” Clevenger said.
“The fans here are great. It’s a great baseball town. I’ll always cherish my moments from when I was here.”
Clevenger, 30, and Johnson, 28, have seen limited action with Seattle so far this year. Playing behind starter Chris Iannetta, Clevenger has appeared in just 10 games, compiling six hits, including one homer, in 32 at-bats (.188 average).
Johnson signed a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers this offseason, was released in March and then signed with the Mariners. He was promoted in May and is 1-0 with a 1.80 in five innings of relief through four games.
“It’s been good. I haven’t pitched too much,” Johnson said. “But when I throw strikes I’m still able to get guys out and I’ve been able to do that for the most part. Just whenever I’m in there, I’ve been able to attack as usual. It’s been good so far.”
Clevenger said he expects to have 20 to 30 people in the stands cheering for him this week.
“My phone has been going off the hook the last week when we are coming into town. … I think I’ve got (more friends coming than) Johnson. I think I’ve got him,” Clevenger said laughing.
But Johnson may have gotten the last laugh. He went out for two dozen steamed crabs Monday night after the Mariners’ plane arrived in Baltimore.
“They were pretty good,” Johnson said. “I crushed them and then slept in my own bed.”
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