Lineup quirk costly to Johnson, LA
Pitching contender goes inning shorter than planned
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- For Jason Johnson, one poorly timed clerical mistake proved to be almost as damaging as a few poorly placed pitches.
Johnson, scheduled to pitch two innings in Wednesday's game against the Nationals, instead threw only one after a lineup quirk forced Tommy Lasorda -- managing the Dodgers left behind in the United States while Joe Torre escorts a contingent to China -- to pinch-hit for him in the fifth inning.
In preparation for normal National League games, the Dodgers had planned on allowing starting pitcher Chad Billingsley to take his at-bats during Wednesday's start. Yet when Billingsley left the game and Lasorda attempted to insert a designated hitter into the vacant lineup spot, umpires told him he couldn't. Though the Dodgers had approved the plan with the Nationals before the game, they hadn't run it by the officials.
That meant that while the Nationals played Wednesday's game with a DH, the Dodgers did not. More importantly, it meant that the Dodgers had to insert each of their pitchers -- Johnson included -- into the lineup.
When Johnson's turn to bat came around, he had thrown only one inning, and remained well short of his scheduled 50 pitches. Still, the Dodgers decided to pinch-hit for him, prematurely ending his afternoon. Had a DH been in place, Johnson would have remained in the game and continued his uphill fight for a roster spot.
Johnson entered Wednesday's play with six scoreless innings under his belt, but allowed three runs during the fifth inning against the Nationals. Now, the Dodgers need him to make up for the missed work, so his immediate future remains unclear.
"I'll get with him and we'll just have to reconfigure it," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "Him only getting an inning today, we'll have to bring him back quicker and work off that."
Johnson could also pitch at the team's Minor League complex between outings.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.