Added bench depth comes up big
Johnson added to 40-man roster, delivers upon arrival to Rays
BOSTON -- Recent injuries finally prompted the Rays to get some help Tuesday.
And brother, did they receive some help in the form of Dan Johnson, who arrived from Triple-A Durham just in time to hit the game-tying home run off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in the top of the ninth in a 5-4 Rays win.
Carl Crawford is out for an undetermined amount of time, Evan Longoria could be back by the end of the weekend, backup catcher Shawn Riggans joined the wounded with bursitis in his right knee and B.J. Upton's status is up in the air after leaving Monday night's loss to the Red Sox with a strained left quadriceps.
All of the uncertainty triggered an action as the Rays selected Johnson and catcher Michel Hernandez from Durham; to clear room on the 40-man roster, infielder Joel Guzman was designated for assignment.
The left-handed hitting Johnson, 29, was supposed to start for the Rays on Tuesday night, but he did not arrive from the airport in time and was scratched from the lineup.
"The weather was bad around here and a lot of the flights were canceled," Johnson said. "They were able to squeeze me on a flight and got me here about [20 minutes before the start of the game]. I didn't have any clue I was playing. And they mentioned that."
Maddon was more than happy with his new left-handed bat.
"He got here and had a tremendous at-bat," Maddon said. "He'll play tomorrow."
Johnson spent most of the season with the Bulls after being claimed off waivers from Oakland on April 18. He hit .307 with 25 home runs and 83 RBI. He spent most of 2005-2007 in the Major Leagues with the Athletics and hit a career-high 18 home runs last season.
"Dan Johnson has really had a tremendous year for us in Durham," said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "We were going to call him up when Durham was done, but in light of B.J.'s minor injury, we decided to kind of micromanage the near-term games a little more and bring him up sooner. We've got a stretch of right-handed pitchers in front of us and felt like he was the right guy at the right time."
Johnson, who has been primarily a first baseman, played eight games in the outfield for Durham this season, but has never played outfield in the Major Leagues; he also played third base some for the Bulls this season. He was supposed to start in left field Tuesday night against the Red Sox, but Hernandez and Johnson had a travel delay, which made Johnson a late scratch.
"They've done a little bit of everything with [Johnson]," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "[I] just got a text from [Durham manager] Charlie [Montoyo] and he was very encouraging about him. He thought he played a better third base than we thought he could. Obviously, he's an offensive player, but he has more versatility than we first thought."
Hernandez, 30, was acquired from the Pirates for cash considerations on Aug. 31, joining Durham's postseason roster. He hit .266 this year with three home runs and 17 RBIs in 76 games for Triple-A Indianapolis. His only other Major League experience is five games with the Yankees in 2003.
Friedman said they're not sure when Riggans will be ready to play again, so they wanted to have a full compliment of catchers. Hernandez's addition gives the team four catchers with Dioner Navarro, Riggans and John Jasso.
"In Hernandez's case, we have some experience with him -- he caught for Durham down stretch last year and did phenomenal job receiving the ball," Friedman said. "He has a real good feel behind the plate and it was something for us to be able to leverage our extra bodies to be able to pinch-run for a catcher late in game and whenever Joe deems it necessary. To have that flexibility is critical."
The Rays now have 31 on their active roster (13 pitchers, 18 position players).
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.