04/04/08 9:46 PM ET
Johnson positive amid uncertainty
First baseman's status with A's remains a question
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
"I'd rather be positive in a good environment," he said Friday before the opener of a three-game series against the visiting Indians at McAfee Coliseum. "Complaining isn't going to do me any good. You have to be patient in this game."
Rookie Daric Barton has taken over as the starting first baseman, and veteran Mike Sweeney is clearly the No. 2 option at the position. Johnson can't even get into the mix at designated hitter. That spot belongs to Sweeney and Jack Cust, depending on who's playing in the outfield.
So unless Johnson, who is out of options, is traded or put on waivers when the team needs to open a roster spot to accommodate starting pitcher Chad Gaudin's return from the disabled list April 12, it's likely he'll be little more than a left-handed bat off the bench for the A's.
Sweeney, a right-handed hitter, made his first start against a right-handed pitcher Friday. Oakland manager Bob Geren, whose next comment that could be viewed as negative or critical of one of his players will be his first, stuck to his M.O. when asked whether he'd considered starting Johnson.
"Right now, there's a lot of good hitters, and it's difficult to get them all in," he said.
Pressed on the Johnson's seemingly shaky status with the team, Geren added, "You don't want to assume anything at this point. Things change. It's a long season."
Told that Giants general manager Brian Sabean had said on a local sports-talk radio program that he's in the market for a left-handed-hitting first baseman, Johnson, 28, insisted that he doesn't peek around the league in an effort to gauge where there might be interest in his services.
"I don't think about stuff like that," he said. "I just go about my business. If it's not here, it's not here. If it is, it is."
A career .249 hitter in three seasons with Oakland, Johnson's best year was his first, when he batted .275 with 15 homers, 58 RBIs and a .355 on-base percentage in 109 games after being called up from Triple-A Sacramento in May 2005.
Since then, he's been plagued by a variety of ailments and some nasty slumps. He accidentally sprayed sun-screen into one of his eyes during Spring Training in 2006, resulting in vision problems that weren't properly addressed until after the season.
Johnson started that campaign hitless in his first 27 at-bats, and last year was slowed by a torn labrum in his left hip that forced him to start the season on the disabled list. He came back in late April and batted .260 in the first half but just .204 after the break. Despite finishing with 18 homers and 62 RBIs in 117 games, he fell further out of favor when Barton was called up in September and batted .347 in 18 games.
"I don't think you've seen the best of me," Johnson said. "The last couple of years, minus the [batting] average, I've had some decent years, production-wise."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.