Veteran first baseman Dan Johnson, who bounces around from Triple-A to the majors every season and occasionally comes up with a big hit on a big stage, has signed a minor-league deal with the Astros.
Johnson played just 15 games in the majors this past season for the Blue Jays and also failed to post his usual great numbers at Triple-A, although he did manage 18 homers and an .815 OPS in 107 games.
He’ll serve as organization depth for Houston, probably beginning the season at Triple-A.
Interesting story here from Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca about Dan Johnson, who has been on the fringes of the major leagues for the past few seasons as a position player/designated hitter. Now 35 years old, he has begun to think about his baseball mortality. Part of his plan to stick around? The knuckleball.
Yes, Johnson is trying to develop a knuckleball in order to be a “two-way” player. This isn’t exactly a new thing for him. Johnson has messed around with the pitch for years, but he began thinking about it more seriously in 2013 when he was with the Yankees organization and threw it regularly during side sessions. He was in spring training with the Blue Jays (and R.A. Dickey) this year, but a cracked fingernail prevented him from throwing his knuckleball until later in the year. Still, he continues to work on the pitch and believes that it could help his case for a roster spot.
“My hope was to ultimately become a guy that could do both,” he said. “Essentially if you needed a bat or position player I could do that, and if you’ve got a game that’s maybe getting out of hand, instead of burning up a whole bullpen, being able to go out and throw 70 or 80 pitches and suck up innings.”
“I don’t want to do it as a sideshow. If I’m going to do it, I want to do it right.”
Johnson is a free agent right now, but here’s hoping he gets a spring training invite somewhere and a real chance to show what he can do with the knuckler. This could be a lot of fun.
The Blue Jays escaped with a 6-4 victory over the Yankees this afternoon and with it, they snapped a 17-game losing streak at Yankee Stadium. The losing skid began on September 19, 2012 and continued when the Jays lost on Friday night. The streak is the second longest in Jays’ history, trailing the 19 consecutive games lost to the Orioles at Memorial Stadium between 1978-81, per MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm.
Dan Johnson played the hero, knocking in four runs on the afternoon including three with a home run off of Jeff Francis in the ninth inning. The blast gave the Jays a 6-2 lead. Closer Casey Janssen got into some trouble in the bottom of the ninth, serving up a two-run home run to Carlos Beltran to make it 6-4, but he was able to retire Brian McCann and Chase Headley to end the game and the Yankee Stadium skid.
The win snaps the Yankees’ four-game winning streak. The Jays have won six of their last eight. Both teams trail the AL East-leading Orioles by 3.5 games.
Baseball’s book of unwritten rules just got a little fatter and a little more unkempt. In a battle of Colbys, Rangers starter Colby Lewis is upset that Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus laid down a bunt with his team up 2-0 with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning of Saturday’s game. Rasmus placed the ball to the third base side of the mound and reached safely, but was stranded after Dan Johnson struck out.
Lewis took the loss as the Rangers fell 4-1. He allowed two runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out five in five innings of work. He is now 6-7 with a 6.37 ERA and a 78/29 K/BB ratio in 89 innings over 17 starts.
Lewis explained why he took offense to the bunt after the game. Via MLB.com’s Chris Toman:
“I told [Rasmus] I didn’t appreciate it,” Lewis said. “You’re up by two runs with two outs and you lay down a bunt. I don’t think that’s the way the game should be played.”
When pressed further on what the problem with Rasmus’ bunt was, Lewis insinuated that the outfielder put himself before his team.
“I felt like you have a situation where there is two outs, you’re up two runs, you have gotten a hit earlier in the game off me, we are playing the shift, and he laid down a bunt basically simply for average,” Lewis said.
Lewis also explained that, because Rasmus didn’t attempt to steal on either of the first two pitches Lewis threw to Johnson, Rasmus was simply looking to pad his batting average. Following the game, in which he went 2-for-4, Rasmus is batting .223. He has yet to attempt to steal a base this season.
Lewis could have been steaming from the beating he took at the hands of the Angels on July 10. He allowed 13 runs in 2 1/3 innings in his final start before the All-Star break. One thing is for sure: his line of reasoning sure doesn’t make any sense. If Rangers pitchers don’t want to deal with bunts, then they shouldn’t be employing infield shifts. Rasmus was doing what he felt gave him the best chance to reach base and thus give his team the best chance of padding the lead.
In the wake of Mark Teixeira’s right wrist injury, the Yankees contacted Derrek Lee to see if he would be interested in coming out of retirement to fill in at first base. However, they are going to have to go back to the drawing board.
Lee is just the latest retired player to turn down the Yankees, joining former Braves third baseman Chipper Jones. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman confirmed to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that he also reached out to Scott Rolen, but he got the impression that he will not play this season.
Assuming the Yankees stick to internal options, they could go with Dan Johnson, Juan Rivera or Kevin Youkilis at first base. If Youkilis plays first, Jayson Nix, Eduardo Nunez and Ronnier Mustelier are among the possibilities to fill in at third.