Notes: Johnson looking for chance
Young catcher trying to soak up and learn since callup
SEATTLE -- The last thing catcher Rob Johnson expected to see the first time he reached base in the Major Leagues was the steal sign.But that's what he got in the ninth inning Tuesday night, when he ran for Jose Vidro in a tie game against the Indians. "It was my first time on the bases in the big leagues, and I was a little nervous," Johnson said. "I picked up the sign and concentrated on getting a good jump." He swiped the base with ease, as Indians catcher Kelly Stoppach mishandled the ball and was unable to make a throw. Johnson returned to the dugout moments later when pinch-hitter Ben Broussard grounded out to end the inning and received some pats on the back for his stolen base but no souvenir to show for it. A player's first big league hit almost always results in the game ball being presented to the hitter. Johnson received a memory -- and some good-natured ribbing. "A couple of guys were giving me a bad time," he said. "[Jarrod Washburn] told me I should have ripped the base out of the ground and held it up over my head, like Rickey Henderson did." Henderson did it many years ago, when he set the MLB record for most career stolen bases. "Maybe I'll ask for the base at the end of the season," Johnson quipped. As one of the Minor League players promoted in early September, when rosters could be expanded from 25 to as high as 40 players, Johnson has been "keeping my mouth shut, watching and learning," he said. "It has been quite a learning experience, just watching how these guys prepare for games. To me, it's a totally different game up here. It's nice to step back and watch other players. It really opens your eyes." The 24-year-old Johnson, selected in the fourth round of the 2004 Draft, batted .268 with six home runs and 40 RBIs this season. He also stole seven bases and was caught stealing seven times. "He can run," manager John McLaren said. With the primary pinch-runners already in the game, and two others unavailable because of injures, McLaren and Tacoma manager Darren Brown discussed some options. "[Johnson] was the best option," McLaren said. "He went in, got the green light and took off." Johnson took over the club lead in stole bases -- among catchers. Kenji Johjima is 0-for-2 and Jamie Burke 0-for-1 this season. Stealing bases, though, won't be the way Johnson sticks in the Major Leagues for good. He hopes to show off his other skills these final few days of the season. "I would like to [start a game]," he said, "but I don't know how important it is. The competitor in me would like to." Trivia challenge: The Mariners batted first in the opener of Wednesday's doubleheader against the Indians and batted last in the nightcap. When was the last time an MLB team batted both first and last on the same day? Solemn day: The Mariners clubhouse was without its usual pre-game activity on Wednesday, as players came to grips with the sudden passing of Robert Reagle, a longtime clubhouse assistant. He had worked with the Mariners since April 1999, in a variety of positions in Seattle, Tacoma and the Peoria Sports Complex. "I have known Rob for nearly 20 years," Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said in a statement. "His upbeat attitude, sense of humor and sly smile will be missed in our clubhouse and the Mariners family. We wish to extend out deepest sympathy to Rob's family." "I've known Rob since I came here in 1993," McLaren said. "Rob was friendly and he liked to laugh.
"It has hit me, but it really hit me. Every day I walk down the hall and look to the left [into the laundry room] and he's always there. Today I went down there, and he wasn't there."Reagle is survived by his parents, stepmother, sister and 7-year-old daughter, Marissa. About time: A series that was supposed to start on April 6 at Jacobs Field finally ended at Safeco Field -- 174 days and 10,100 air miles later. The entire four-game series was snowed out in Cleveland. Three of the games were made up at Jacobs Field and the final game was played as the first game of a twin-bill at Safeco. Hire a mover: Outfielder Wladimir Balentien still had his right hand taped on Wednesday, making his availability for the doubleheader in doubt. He injured his hand on Monday's off-day moving some furniture. The answer is: Wednesday was the first time since 1913 that the "home" team batted first at its own ballpark, according to David W. Smith of Retrosheet. On June 26, 1913, the Philadelphia Athletics played a doubleheader against the Washington Senators, who batted both first and last in the double dip. On deck: The four-game series ends Thursday with right-hander Cha Seung Baek (3-3, 5.48) opposing Indians right-hander Paul Byrd (15-7, 4.55). First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. PT.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.