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Rays acquire left-handed-hitting outfielder Gabe Gross from Brewers

Dan Johnson, who reported to the Rays on Tuesday,  signs autographs before the first game at Disney. Johnson has had a chaotic few months that included a serious bone infection before spring training.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

Dan Johnson, who reported to the Rays on Tuesday, signs autographs before the first game at Disney. Johnson has had a chaotic few months that included a serious bone infection before spring training.

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays added another left-handed bat and potential platoon rightfielder Tuesday, acquiring Gabe Gross from the Brewers for RHP prospect Josh Butler.

Gross, 28, a former Auburn starting quarterback, has 20 homers and 87 RBIs in parts of five big-league seasons. Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said Gross provides a blend of power and patience, which will help against right-handed pitching, and is strong defensively, having played all three outfield spots.

Gross, seemingly the odd man out in a Brewers outfield that will soon add Tony Gwynn off rehab assignment and Mike Cameron off suspension, had a wild final day in Milwaukee. Against the Cardinals, he singled in the 12th, stole second and scored the winning run.

"Some day," Gross told reporters in Milwaukee. "It was definitely a little bit out of the blue, but I'm just looking forward to going down there and joining the team now."

Friedman said he had talked with the Brewers about Gross since spring training, when the Rays eventually claimed OF Nathan Haynes, a left-handed hitting defensive specialist, off waivers. Gross said he hopes to report today, when a roster cut will have to be made, with Haynes and OF Justin Ruggiano (optioned to Triple A) possibilities.

Butler, 23, a second-round pick in 2006 out of San Diego, was 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA for Class A Vero Beach.

JOHNSON ARRIVES: Dan Johnson, acquired off waivers Friday, joined the Rays on Tuesday after an interesting spring and antsy couple of weeks in "limbo."

Since Oakland designated him for assignment April 9, Johnson struggled to find a place to work out, having to take private hitting lessons ($45) in the Oakland area. When he arrived Monday after a red-eye flight, he tried taking some swings at Tropicana Field but found the doors locked on the team's off day.

The left-handed hitting Johnson, who's expected to serve as backup 1B/DH, is just glad to be playing after a bone infection nearly ended his season before it began. Johnson, 28, said the infection, sparked in the sinus area, put him in the hospital for two weeks before spring training and he lost 30 pounds.

Johnson said doctors originally said he needed surgery, which would put him out six to nine months, but after treatment and some "home remedies," he's 100 percent. Johnson didn't play Tuesday, with manager Joe Maddon wanting to see him go through BP and infield work.

NAVI BACK: C Dioner Navarro returned to the lineup for the first time in almost three weeks after rehabbing from cuts on two right fingers. Navarro said he's pain-free and comfortable with all parts of his game. Navarro made an impact right away, throwing out an attempted basestealer in the second and adding two run-scoring singles.

With Navarro's arrival, Maddon said the club had to make the "tough decision" to say goodbye to veteran backup Mike DiFelice. DiFelice made a strong case to stay, hitting .300 while working well with the young staff. He must clear waivers for the Rays to keep him in the organization.

MISCELLANY: 1B Carlos Pena (right hamstring tightness) went 0-for-4 at DH, with Maddon saying he could return to the field today. … SS Jason Bartlett (sore right arm) started and went 1-for-4 with an RBI single… Ace LHP Scott Kazmir is scheduled to make his second start for Vero Beach today; if all goes well, he'll make a final rehab outing Monday for Triple-A Durham before joining the rotation May 3 against Boston. … RHP Matt Garza (radial nerve irritation) could start Friday against the Red Sox. … Top pick LHP David Price, rehabbing a left elbow injury, threw a successful bullpen session. … RHP Troy Percival earned his 326th save, 11th all time.

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

Rays acquire left-handed-hitting outfielder Gabe Gross from Brewers 04/22/08 [Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2008 12:54pm]
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