© 2011 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

11/03/11 5:35 PM ET

Johnson outrighted, becomes free agent

ST. PETERSBURG -- Dan Johnson, who hit two of the biggest home runs in Rays team history, was outrighted to Triple-A Durham on Thursday, but he declined the assignment and is now a free agent.

On the final day of the 2011 season, Johnson, 32, pinch-hit for the Rays, who trailed the Yankees by a run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and he hit a game-tying blast with two strikes off Cory Wade to send the game to extra innings. And the rest was history, as Tampa Bay went on to win 8-7 to earn the American League's Wild Card spot.

Johnson also came through during the 2008 season. On Sept. 9, 2008, the day he was selected from Durham, he hit a game-tying pinch-hit home run at Fenway Park off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Prior to that at-bat, he was 0-for-15 as a pinch-hitter in his Major League career.

Johnson had a monster season at Durham in 2010, hitting 30 home runs with 95 RBIs and 75 walks in 98 games for the Bulls, which earned him International League Most Valuable Player honors. He then played in 40 games for the Rays and hit seven home runs with 23 RBIs.

When incumbent first baseman Carlos Pena left the Rays via free agency prior to the 2011 season, Johnson was the team's Opening Day first baseman. Unfortunately for Johnson, he struggled, hitting .115 in 25 games before he was designated for assignment on May 20.

Johnson hit .119 with two home runs and four RBIs in 31 games for Tampa Bay this past season. In 81 games for the Rays spread over three seasons, Johnson hit .168 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.