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.
The Mariners are in the midst of reconstructing their roster, a process which most recently resulted in the trade of first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnación to the Yankees, per a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan. While the teams have yet to publicly confirm the deal, the Mariners are expected to receive pitching prospect Juan Then and will likely eat a significant portion of Encarnación’s salary as well.
Encarnación is a sizable get for the Yankees, who could benefit from the veteran’s power and consistency in their ongoing drive toward the postseason. The 36-year-old infielder missed some time with a bout of lower back tightness, dental issues, and soreness in his left hand, but has still maintained a decent .241/.356/.531 batting line with an AL-best 21 home runs, an .888 OPS, and 1.7 fWAR through his first 289 plate appearances of the year. Per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, Encarnación has another $11-12 million left on his contract in 2019, with a $20 million option for the 2020 season and a $5 million buyout.
Then, 19, was acquired by the Yankees in a three-person trade with the Mariners during the 2017 offseason. The right-hander currently ranks no. 27 in the Yankees’ system and made his last pro ball appearance for New York’s rookie-level affiliate in 2018, pitching to a 2.70 ERA, 2.0 BB/9, and 7.6 SO/9 across 50 innings. It’s not clear if any other players are involved in the trade, though USA Today’s Bob Nightengale notes that no other prospects are thought to be included in the package for Encarnación.