04/22/08 7:37 PM ET
Johnson joins Rays, sits opener
New team addition on bench as Hinske plays first vs. Jays
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Everyday first baseman Carlos Pena, who has been nursing a sore right hamstring, was again the designated hitter. But rather than use Johnson, manager Joe Maddon started Eric Hinske at first.
Johnson "has been working out on his own," Maddon said. "I wanted him to get out here and take some batting practice and some ground balls, see what it looks like."
Johnson, 28, had one at-bat for Oakland this season before the club designated him for assignment on April 9. The left-handed hitter had spent his entire professional career with the A's organization, including parts of four Major League seasons (2005-08).
After getting designated by the A's, Johnson found himself in "limbo" while waiting to find out where he would end up playing. During that period, he had to find a place to work out and ended up finding a small place in the Oakland area that had two batting cages. He even signed up for private lessons to get in the time that he needed in the cage. Johnson smiled while trying to remember the instructor's name.
"I wish I knew the guy's name," Johnson said. "It was $45 a lesson -- I gave him $50. It's kind of [tough to work out] when you can't use the facilities. ... It was nice I found him toward the end of the time I was inactive."
Johnson holds no ill will toward the A's.
"It's time to turn the page, there is no bad blood," Johnson said. "It is what it is. There was a time there, right at the beginning of Spring Training, where I was just getting over a bone infection [in the sinus area]. And if I had had the surgery, it would have been six to nine months recovery. So I can't fault them for signing anybody else. ... Whatever decision they made, they made. No hard feelings. I still feel like the best is yet to come for me. I'm not at all down about anything. Turn the page, and move on."
Now, Johnson is happy about joining the Rays.
"[It] seems like a young group of guys, really talented, and the next place for this team is to really take off and start producing the wins that this team is capable of," Johnson said.
Johnson arrived to the Tampa Bay area on Monday morning via a redeye from the West Coast. Ironically, he wanted to hit at Tropicana Field on Monday, but could not.
"The place was locked out," he said with a chuckle.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.