Chris Johnson entered Wednesday without a homer in 86 at-bats, but he took Chris Schwinden deep in each of his first two plate appearances today to lead the Astros to an 8-1 win over the Mets.
Johnson drove in five runs with the two homers and later added a sixth RBI on a single on his way to a 4-for-4 day. He joined Ryan Braun in becoming the second player this season to collect at least four hits, two homers and six RBI in a game. No Astro had pulled off that feat since Lance Berkman on June 14, 2001.
Johnson appeared to be fading from Houston’s plans as last year went along, but he managed to overtake Jimmy Paredes on the depth chart and regain his starting job at third base this spring. At 27, this could well be his last chance to make it. Johnson is a below average defender at third base, and while he’s a career .277 hitter, that comes with a putrid 218/35 K/BB ratio in 831 career at-bats. Since he’ll likely always sport subpar OBPs, it’s a must that he starts hitting for more power, like he did today.
The Braves have signed reliever Blaine Boyer to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Bowman adds that the right-hander has a “good chance” to make the Braves’ bullpen out of spring training.
Boyer, 35, spent the past season with the Brewers, finishing with a 3.95 ERA and a 26/17 K/BB ratio in 66 innings.
Boyer, of course, started his professional baseball career with the Braves as they selected him in the third round of the 2000 draft. Since the Braves traded him in 2009, Boyer has pitched for the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Mets, Padres, and Twins along with the Brewers.
Update (6:48 PM EST): Topkin reports the contract will be of the major league variety.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.
Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.