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Dan Johnson returns to the Rays as a knuckleball pitcher


1B/DH Dan Johnson hasn’t been seen in the majors much lately — he has just 105 plate appearances over the last four seasons — but he is still remembered for his penchant for timely hitting. Johnson delivered a game-tying home run in the ninth inning of Game 162 of the 2011 season, which helped the Rays get into the playoffs.

Johnson also delivered a game-tying, ninth-inning home run for the Rays back in 2008 against the Red Sox.

Johnson is back with the Rays, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported on Saturday, but not as a hitter. As a knuckleball pitcher. The veteran inked a minor league deal with the Rays and will work with pitching coordinator Charlie Haeger.

“It’s not the first time I’ve tried this out but this is the first time I feel like I can take it seriously,” he said. “This is the time. I’m 36 and ready to go on this.”

R.A. Dickey of the Blue Jays and Steven Wright of the Red Sox are the only major league knuckleballers at the moment. If he gets the chance to get back to the big leagues, Johnson would be joining a small group of pitchers.

Shawn Tolleson retires from baseball

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Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that reliever Shawn Tolleson is retiring from baseball. The right-hander experienced a setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery last week.

Tolleson, who turns 31 years old on Saturday, last pitched in the majors in 2016. He had two very good years out of the bullpen for the Rangers in 2014-15, posting an aggregate 2.88 ERA with 145 strikeouts and 45 walks across 144 innings.

Tolleson signed a one-year deal with the Rays in January 2017 before undergoing Tommy John surgery several months later. The Rangers inked him to a minor league contract in December 2017, but he wasn’t able to work his way back.