Any Rays fan worth their Longoria jersey should know what moment the picture above was taken. That pinch hit home run off Jonathan Papelbon in the 9th inning was one of the most memorable events of the 2008 regular season. Since that season, Dan Johnson has been to Japan and back again and he has come back with a vengeance in AAA Durham. He leads the International League in home runs with 26, RBI with 82, Slugging Percentage at .603, and OPS at 1.016. Since June 1st, he is hitting .290/.432/.600 and has 36 walks compared to just 28 strikeouts in his last 145 at bats. Yes, most of his damage comes against right-handed pitching but call me crazy for wanting that kind of power threat on the bench to use in late game situations or as a DH against righties rather than utilizing Gabe Kapler. Kapler’s defensive abilities are good but he is a liability at the plate and the Rays can and have played Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac in the outfield when needed. With Crawford, Upton, Joyce, and Zobrist available the need for a fifth outfielder is very slim because those guys are going nearly everyday as is. We’ve seen how disciplined hitters such as Matt Joyce and John Jaso have come up from AAA to add another dimension to the Rays’ offense; I maintain it is time to bring up Johnson to see what he can do.
To quote the rhetorical question from my friend Jeff Erickson of Rotowire.com, “Is he Nelson Cruz or Dallas McPherson?” Admittedly, he certainly profiles much like McPherson without all of the back troubles but the Rays really don’t know what Johnson can do without giving him the chance. After all, they gave him a $500,000 contract to return to the organization this season for some reason. Maybe he is more like Crash Davis who just wants another 21 magical days in the sun where you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags, you hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.