2/18/2014 8:20 P.M. ET
Johnson breaks into acting on 'House of Cards'
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- It started with a simple introduction to one of his favorite actors.
While with Baltimore last July, A's closer Jim Johnson approached Kevin Spacey in the Orioles' clubhouse, while the actor was scouting set locations for his popular Netflix political drama "House of Cards," and small talk ensued for quite some time. Johnson wanted to know about life as an actor; Spacey inquired about baseball.
How quickly they intertwined.
After Spacey threw out the first pitch to Johnson at Camden Yards -- "He had no glove, so I gave him an extra batting practice glove," said Johnson -- executives of "House of Cards" decided to recreate the scene for an episode in its second season.
This time, of course, Johnson would be on the receiving end of a pitch thrown by Francis Underwood, the conniving character Spacey portrays in the series. Former Orioles teammate Nate McLouth, now with the Nationals, also makes a cameo in this scene, which takes place in the sixth episode.
All 13 episodes of the second season debuted on Netflix last week.
"They cut my lines," said Johnson, laughing, "but I don't care."
During filming, Johnson and McLouth were offered some background information on the episode, but Johnson nearly had to cover his hears, saying, "I didn't want them to tell me, because I want to watch it. I love the show so much."
He still hasn't seen the only evidence of his brief-lived acting career, since the Internet at his Spring Training home isn't working yet.
"I've gotten a couple messages from some people about it," he said, "and I still keep in touch with Kevin. He's a real nice guy. You know what was amazing, was watching him flip that switch and go into character. He automatically turned into Francis Underwood, and it was kinda creepy."
Upon hearing this, A's reliever Sean Doolittle -- another fan of the show -- yelled out to Johnson, "You're a TV star?"
"Yeah, but they had to take away my SAG card," Johnson joked, referring to membership in the Screen Actors' Guild union.
No membership required, though, to trade texts with Spacey.
When Spacey learned Johnson was traded to Oakland this winter, he reached out to the All-Star closer and informed him he had family in the Bay Area, "so it's all good."
"I'll have to have him come out for a game if he's around," said Johnson.
A's waiting before adjusting play-at-plate drills
PHOENIX -- Guidelines designed to rid baseball of home-plate collisions are expected to go into effect this season. But recommendations for these rule changes remain just that for now.
A's manager Bob Melvin doesn't want his catchers adapting to rules that haven't officially been implemented, which is why he hasn't tweaked any Spring Training drills.
A former catcher, Melvin wants clarification first.
"Until I get confirmation on what it is exactly going to be, we're kind of doing status quo right now," the A's manager said Tuesday. "We've talked about it some, and it looks like we are probably going to have to do something. They're talking about working it in once the season starts, but I'd like to know what a lot of the variables are because there's a lot of instincts at play for a catcher.
"If you're not allowed to block the plate and the ball comes in the line from an outfielder, what are you supposed to do? We need some clarification on how that's going to be handled."
Several clubs, including the American League West rival Angels, are already in the process of teaching their catchers new mechanics to handle plays at the plate. In a sense, they're unlearning natural instincts.
Major League Baseball representatives are scheduled to visit each camp this spring and provide updates on potential new rules that will surely include a lot of gray area.
"I'm all for safety," said Melvin, "but this is one that's going to be a difficult one to enforce, there's no doubt about it.
"I think it will be a reviewable play as well, so the umpire could go back and see if he was blocking the plate. Now, the runner has to slide within the line, too, to make all this work. But if it's a 2-2 game in the ninth inning, the ball's coming right on the plate and takes you into the line, what's a catcher supposed to do? I'm sure there's some kinks to be ironed out, as far as what the rules are supposed to be."
Lefties Savery, Abad among bullpen hopefuls
PHOENIX -- Newly acquired A's reliever Joe Savery won't join the team for workouts until Thursday, but he'll be watched closely when he does.
"He'll get a long look, definitely," manager Bob Melvin said Tuesday, a day after the A's claimed Savery off waivers from the Phillies.
Melvin has a handful of relief arms vying for just two open bullpen spots, but Savery is on a short list of left-handers, which aids his cause. But, unlike fellow southpaw Fernando Abad, Savery has a Minor League option remaining, potentially lending Abad the upper hand to break camp with the big club.
Abad, who was acquired in a November trade with the Nationals, pitched to a 3.35 ERA in 37 2/3 innings with Washington last year, averaging 7.6 strikeouts and 2.4 walks per nine innings. He spent 2010-12 with the Astros and has a career record of 1-14 with a 4.56 ERA.
Melvin has seen him throw twice this spring.
"Lot of life to his fastball, hides the ball a little bit and keeps the ball down," Melvin said. "He's not throwing a full complement yet, and to really know guys it takes in-game situations, but it looks like he definitely knows what he's doing with his fastball."
Savery, meanwhile, is fresh off an encouraging 18-game stint with the Phillies last year. Opponents hit .205 against him, and he had a 3.15 ERA and two saves in that span.
"Looking at the numbers, he looks pretty good," said Melvin. "Until we get him here and see what he has to offer, we'll see. We've gotten some pretty good reports on him, and Brandon Moss played with him for a little while, too, and had some good things to say about him. Anytime you can get added depth, especially from the left side, you gotta consider yourself lucky.
"Moss said that when he was with him, the guy was dominating, and almost kind of compared him to [Sean] Doolittle when he first got here. We'd take that."
• Lefty Drew Pomeranz, on the mend from an infection caused by an ingrown leg hair that had to be lanced, threw his first bullpen in front of A's coaches.
"The ball screams out of his hand," said Melvin. "Obviously he has plus-velocity. Nice just to get a first look at a guy, and there's definitely a lot of upside."
Melvin said Pomeranz will be stretched out this spring, as the A's eye to keep him in a starting role, despite a brief relief stint with the Rockies last year.
• Wednesday marks the final day of workouts designed strictly for pitchers and catchers. A's position players report Wednesday and will take their physicals in advance of Thursday's first full-squad workout. Most have already been working in the cages at Phoenix Municipal Stadium this week, including Josh Reddick, Josh Donaldson, Coco Crisp and Brandon Moss.