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Rays cut Johnson loose a day after he reports

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Dan Johnson era didn't last long.

Johnson, who joined the Rays on Tuesday after being claimed on waivers from Oakland, was designated for assignment Wednesday to make room for newly acquired OF Gabe Gross.

"Obviously, it's a little bit of an awkward situation," Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "We have a tremendous amount of respect for Dan as a player. … (It was) something we ideally would have liked to have avoided. Everything we did was on the up and up. At the time we claimed him Friday we didn't know what we know now on a couple different fronts."

Most significant were that 1B Carlos Pena's sore right hamstring improved enough for him to avoid the disabled list and return to the field, and that they'd be able to get Gross in trade from Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Johnson's brief stay cost the Rays about $40,000 total in waiver fees, travel expenses, salary (six days' worth) and meal money, though they can get $20,000 back if he is claimed by another team.

And it caused them considerable consternation.

"It was unfortunate it came down that way," manager Joe Maddon said. "I felt bad for the guy. I felt awful about the whole scenario."

Johnson's agent, Bob Barad, termed the sequence of events "unfortunate circumstances" but had no issues with the Rays' handling of the situation. "I certainly don't think in any way, shape or form they (claimed him) with the intent of this happening," he said. "These things happen."

Johnson, 28, brought his wife and two young sons with him from Oakland, and the Rays agreed to extend his stay at their Disney-area hotel until Friday and are likely to put him on waivers right away (rather than take up to 10 days as they are allowed) so he has a chance to be picked up by another team.

Friedman said he'd be "surprised" if Johnson weren't claimed but that if he weren't it was "certainly conceivable" he'd end up at Triple-A Durham.

THE NEW GUY: Gross arrived just before Wednesday's game with his own whirlwind, having found out about the trade 10 minutes after scoring the winner in Milwaukee on Tuesday, then missing his connecting flight Wednesday from Atlanta to Orlando.

The Rays have big plans, talking about playing the left-handed hitter regularly in rightfield at least against right-handed starters, as well as a potential backup in center and left.

"I think he'll get a fair amount of playing time," Friedman said.

Gross is a career .256 hitter against right-handers and .093 (5-for-54) against lefties, but Maddon said he wouldn't rule out giving him some opportunities.

Gross, who will wear the same No. 26 that Johnson did, said "the more I thought about (the trade) the more excited I got about it."

The Rays have to make another roster move Friday when they activate RHP Matt Garza from the disabled list, and likely will decide between optioning Justin Ruggiano to Triple A or designating for assignment Nathan Haynes, who is out of options.

FAST TRACK: The Rays have already reminded Andy Sonnanstine to be aggressive and use his fastball primarily tonight as he seeks to follow-up Saturday's complete-game shutout. "When he's convicted to the pitches he throws, he pitches very well," Maddon said. "When he's ambivalent, he's not nearly as good."

MISCELLANY: LF Carl Crawford extended his hitting streak to 10 games, hitting .381 over that span. … The Rays could know as soon as this afternoon if veteran C Mike DiFelice clears waivers, then accepts an assignment to Triple-A Durham. … Friedman said the Rays received "encouraging news" on Cliff Floyd's recovery from right knee surgery, but he likely won't return until sometime in May. … The Rays' 10 wins are their most at this point since 1999.

Rays cut Johnson loose a day after he reports 04/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2008 2:42pm]
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