PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Dan Johnson has accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A Durham.

"[It's] great to keep a guy like that in the organization," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He knows how much we like him. It's unfortunate it worked out that way this spring, but it's great that he accepted the assignment to come back. We like having him with us. We see him as being very helpful at some point in the season."

Johnson, who was with the Rays in 2008, and contributed one of the most memorable moments of that season despite his short stint with the big league club, spent the '09 season playing for the Yokohama Bay Stars in Japan, for whom he batted .215 with 24 homers and 57 RBIs in 117 games.

The 30-year-old left-handed hitter was originally a seventh-round pick by the Athletics in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, and he spent his first seven seasons of professional baseball with them. He was then claimed off waivers by the Rays in April 2008.

While appearing in 113 games for the Rays' Triple-A affiliate, Johnson was named Player of the Year for Durham, batting .307 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs. He was then called up in September 2008 and had one of the most famous moments during Tampa Bay's run to a World Series berth, hitting a pinch-hit, game-tying home run off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning at Fenway Park on Sept. 9, during an eventual 5-4 win for the Rays.

In parts of four seasons in the big leagues, Johnson sports a .248 batting average with a .343 on-base percentage, .420 slugging percentage and 44 homers in 328 games. He saw his most action in 2007, when he hit .236 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs.

Shin still bruised, but Navarro returns

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Dioner Navarro was back in the lineup Tuesday, catching for the first time in more than a week.

Navarro had not caught in a game since March 20, when Jacque Jones of the Twins slammed into him at home plate. Navarro's left shin took the brunt of the blow that had him walking on crutches for several days.

"I can say it was nothing but a scare," Navarro said. "It's great to be back out there."

Initially, the injury looked far worse. After the collision, Navarro held onto the ball and Jones was called out. Navarro then fell to the ground holding his left leg as he came to a rest on the grass just past the clay around home plate. Assistant athletic trainer Nick Paparesta and Rays manager Joe Maddon ran to Navarro's side before medical personnel from Charlotte Sports Park quickly got involved, as well. Navarro was loaded onto a cart and driven from the field, accompanied by head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield. Navarro left the club's complex to have X-rays taken of his left leg, which proved to be negative.

Navarro's shin is still bruised.

"I was concerned about the nerve," Navarro said. "They told me there's nothing I could do to make it worse, so I'm like, 'I'm ready to play.' ... Everything is good as gold. I'm ready for Opening Day."

Admiral gets first-pitch honors for Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Admiral Eric Thor Olson, the eighth and current Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), will throw out the ceremonial first pitch in the Rays' opener next Tuesday. He previously served as Deputy Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command from 2004 to July 2007.

Olson is the first Navy SEAL to be appointed to the grade of a three-star and four-star admiral as well as the first naval officer to be USSOCOM's combatant commander. He assumed his current assignment on July 9, 2007. His awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and Silver Star.

Rays option Thayer to Durham

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Dale Thayer, who was in the hunt for the final Rays bullpen spot, was optioned to Triple-A Durham.

Thayer, 28, pitched in 11 games over three different tours with Tampa Bay in 2009, going 0-0 with a 4.61 ERA. He went 2-5 with a 2.27 ERA and 17 saves in 51 appearances at Durham.