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Dan Johnson hopes for chance to play with Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — 1B Dan Johnson, acquired Friday off waivers from Oakland, is scheduled to join the Rays today.

Johnson, 28, a patient left-handed hitter, is expected to serve as backup first baseman and DH. He has shown flashes of power in portions of three seasons with Oakland, tallying 19 homers last season. He was designated for assignment April 9 after getting just one at-bat.

With Carlos Pena (hamstring tightness) still serving as DH, Johnson hopes to be more than just an insurance policy.

"It'll be an opportunity for some (at-bats)," he said. "All you can ask is to be given a chance, and hopefully you can take advantage."

To make room, the Rays will have to make a corresponding roster move; one potential trim could be optioning OF Justin Ruggiano back to Triple A.

BARTLETT REST: SS Jason Bartlett is scheduled for a day off today, giving him two days to rest. It couldn't have come at a better time. Bartlett, who has four errors in eight games (all throwing), said he has battled soreness in his arm for "a while" — equating it to a "dead arm" feeling some pitchers get during spring training.

Bartlett, who led major-league shortstops last year with 23 errors, impressed in the spring with his defense (.982 fielding percentage, one error) and hitting (.340). But he hasn't been the same since, hitting .210 with 11 strikeouts.

"It feels like a big ache," he said of his arm. "It's not like anything I've had before."

Bartlett and the Rays don't consider it serious, with him potentially returning to the lineup Tuesday.

PENA UPDATE: Pena returned to the lineup as DH for the first time since leaving Thursday's game with right hamstring tightness. He said he didn't see a problem with getting back to first base today, but manager Joe Maddon is more inclined to keep him as DH another day.

Pena went 2-for-3 with a walk and showed no ill effects. "I'm kind of excited that I feel this good," he said.

HOWELL's NICHE? LHP J.P. Howell had always envisioned himself as a big-league starter, even before the days at the University of Texas, where he broke Roger Clemens strikeout record. But since breaking camp as a long reliever, he couldn't be happier.

Howell, 24, said he has had more confidence attacking hitters and feels as if he has learned more in the new role. "I honestly have no want to be a starter," said Howell, who has a 2.53 ERA in six appearances, including his first career save Thursday.

Maddon said he has been impressed with Howell's aggressiveness with his fastball and the better break on his offspeed stuff and believes he may have found a niche. "I see him being a functional, late-inning relief pitcher," Maddon said. "He can get out an (Alex Rodriguez) or a good lefty; he's kind of a valuable guy out there right now."

MISCELLANY: Top pick LHP David Price, rehabbing a left elbow injury, had a successful bullpen session Saturday at the minor-league complex. … C Dioner Navarro (finger cuts) went 1-for-1 with four walks, three runs and an RBI as DH in a rehab start for Class A Vero Beach. … RHP Matt Garza (radial nerve irritation) makes a rehab start today for Vero, with Navarro catching. … Carl Crawford went 2-for-4 to extend his team-high hitting streak to seven games. … Ex-Ray Toby Hall started at catcher for the White Sox, going 1-for-3. … White Sox DH Jim Thome grounded out in all three plate appearances. He had reached base in all 26 games at Tropicana Field. … Saturday's postgame "Wrestling Night" promotion featured several former WWE stars and a guest appearnance by Jonny Gomes.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Dan Johnson hopes for chance to play with Rays 04/19/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 20, 2008 12:28am]
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