Marlins

Miami Marlins look to Reed Johnson for experience, knack for getting on base

 
 
 <span class="cutline_leadin">optimistic veteran: </span>Reed Johnson, 37, is vying for a roster spot with the Marlins this season after a stint with the Atlanta Braves last season, which was hindered by an injured left Achilles tendon.
optimistic veteran: Reed Johnson, 37, is vying for a roster spot with the Marlins this season after a stint with the Atlanta Braves last season, which was hindered by an injured left Achilles tendon.
Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

mnavarro@MiamiHerald.com

As someone who has bounced around the National League for the last six seasons, Reed Johnson has had the chance to both see and shine against the Marlins plenty.

“To see those guys from the beginning of 2013 to the end of last year it was like night and day,” said Johnson, a career .302 hitter against the Marlins and now the oldest player in camp with them at age 37. “It’s a team you really didn’t want to face.”

Signed to a minor league contract, Johnson is considered an underdog to 29-year old left-handed hitting Brian Bogusevic (acquired in the Justin Ruggiano trade with the Cubs) to earn the backup outfielder job coming out of camp.

Still, the Marlins are giving Johnson a look because he’s been one of the top right-handed pinch hitters in the game and has a knack for getting on base. They also don’t mind his 11 years of playing experience rubbing off on their collection of young talented outfielders.

“One of the reasons why we spoke this winter about bringing him over was to influence some of our younger players,” manager Mike Redmond said before Johnson singled and was hit by a pitch in a 6-6, nine-inning tie with the Braves Saturday.

“He hits lefties and that’s his value. He can play a lot of different positions and gives you good at-bats. That’s why he’s still playing.”

Of the 48 pinch-hitters during the 2013 season to get at least 25 plate appearances, Johnson ranked second in batting average (.297), fifth in on-base percentage (.395) and ninth in OPS (.801). He’s also a career .288 pinch-hitter with the second-highest career on base percentage (.339) in camp.

Johnson was having a good season for the Braves last year before going down with a left Achilles tendon injury in late July. When he returned in mid-September he wasn’t the same. Johnson closed the regular season hitless in nine at-bats, and his averaged dipped from .263 to .244.

Even though he’s never drawn a lot of walks (the most he had in one season was 33 in 2006 with Toronto), Johnson has been one of the best in the game at getting on base. That’s because he is pretty good at getting plunked.

Johnson is fifth among active players when it comes to being hit by a pitch (125 total), and he’s also is among the few players in baseball history to get plunked three times in a game. It’s happened to Johnson twice.

“I stand on the plate so people try to come in on me and in off the plate,” said Johnson, who was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning Saturday by reliever Gus Schlosser.

“My approach in general is up the middle or the other way. So I’m going the other way already. When the ball is coming in, it kind of freezes you in a way and you can’t get out of the way.”

Although he’s not guaranteed a spot on the Marlins, Johnson has overcome those odds before. He was a non-roster invitee with the Cubs in 2011 and made the Opening Day roster.

“They know what type of player I am,” Johnson said of the Marlins. “They’ve seen me a little bit. It’s just a matter of whether I’m going to come in and show whether I’m healthy or not. If I’m healthy, moving around well and swinging the bat good, I feel it’s a good situation for me.”

Red hot sox

The flap over the extraordinarily thin spring training lineup the Boston Red Sox sent to Jupiter on Thursday is not dying any time soon.

Red Sox owner John Henry fired out this tweet Saturday, certain to stir things up further.

“They should apologize for their regular season lineup,” Henry wrote.

The Marlins were not pleased when the World Series champs sent over only one regular — center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. — for Thursday's Grapefruit League game. And, according to Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington emailed him an apology that day.

• Rob Brantly, likely headed back to Triple A when the spring ends, plated three runs with a double off Braves starter Freddy Garcia in the third inning and finished with two hits as the Marlins built a 6-2 lead early.

• Jacob Turner lasted only 2 1/3 innings in his second Grapefruit League start. He gave up seven hits, two earned runs and a walk and threw 35 of his 54 pitches for strikes. He also had a throwing error attempting to pick off Jason Heyward at first base.

• Third baseman Casey McGehee rocketed a solo home run off Garcia in the second inning. It was his first of the spring.

• In order to avoid facing the Mets in back-to-back starts, Redmond said Jose Fernandez will pitch in a simulated game back in Jupiter on Monday. Right-hander Kevin Slowey, who has faced the Mets in both of his spring appearances, will pitch in “a B game against the Mets” to also avoid facing their regulars again.

COMING UP

•  Sunday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (0-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. Tigers RHP Rick Porcello (0-1, 7.20), 1:05 p.m. Jupiter.

•  Monday: Marlins LHP Brad Hand (0-0, 2.25 ERA) vs. Mets RHP Bartolo Colon (debut), 1:10 p.m. Port St. Lucie.

Herald sportswriter Clark Spencer contributed to this report.

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