Johnson hoping to latch on with Rays
Versatile player out of options, may end up elsewhere
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Options can be a determining factor on who makes the team in the spring.
If a player is out of options, he must make the club or be exposed to waivers in order to be sent down to Triple-A.
For the Rays, Willy Aybar, Jason Bartlett, Lance Cormier, J.P. Howell, Dan Johnson, Jeff Niemann and Elliot Johnson are all out of options.
Johnson is competing for a roster spot this spring, but he would be considered a long shot based on the fact that both Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez entered Spring Training ahead of him in the pecking order.
Johnson understands his situation, which can be perceived as ideal in that he must clear waivers in order to be sent back to the Minor Leagues. In other words, other interested teams have a shot at claiming him during that waiver period, meaning if he's not with the Rays, he could have a shot at getting to the Major Leagues with another team this season.
"My mind-set coming in this spring is very much like it has been in the past," Johnson said. "I'm still coming to get a job. I don't have one. But the difference is if I don't make the team, I'm not going to Durham.
"I definitely want to stay here, don't want to go anywhere else. But they're definitely going to choose what's best for the team. The best guys are going to be on the team. If I'm part of it, that's what I want. I'm out of options. Hopefully there's [another] team that has a need for me, but hopefully that doesn't happen."
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Johnson pointed out that he could also clear waivers and get sent back to Triple-A, citing Grant Balfour's example. The Rays did not announce that Balfour had been designated for assignment until the conclusion of Spring Training in 2008, long after most of the teams had already set their rosters.
"There's always a possibility of what happened to Balfour a couple of years ago," Johnson said. "How does that guy slip through waivers? And then he ends up being a big part of the World Series team. There are things that can happen like that. Hopefully that doesn't happen. If it does, we'll cross that bridge when it does."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said the decision on Johnson will be a tough one to make, "because I really like this guy."
"He's very talented," Maddon said. "He does so many different things. He fits into the pattern of the kind of player we like. So I don't know how that's going to shake. But I do like this guy a lot. It's just one of those unfortunate rules of the game."
Johnson plays virtually every position and is eager to do whatever is needed to reach the Major Leagues.
"If they want me to catch, I'll throw on some gear," Johnson said. "I played a lot of short last year in the Triple-A playoffs when they sent [Brignac] up [to Tampa Bay]. I like short, played a lot of third, a lot of outfield. I even have a first baseman's glove."
Johnson is extremely athletic and understands that the rap against him is his lack of consistency.
"It's not so much the ability, it's the numbers," Johnson said. "How consistent can I be? I can be one of the best players on the field for a week, and the next week, where am I? And that's why I'm here fighting for a job, [since] .260 in the American League East doesn't cut it. So they're going to put some guys out here who are going to hit. So with me, there are still some question marks."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.