Rays sign veteran infielder Kelly Johnson

ST. PETERSBURG — Kelly Johnson summed up his decision to sign with the Rays on Monday in one word:

"Opportunity."

The left-handed hitting infielder figures to get plenty after agreeing to a one-year major-league contract that will be official after he completes a physical exam today.

The Rays didn't comment on or confirm the deal, but Johnson looks to be a platoon partner for Ryan Roberts and/or Sean Rodriguez at second base (with Ben Zobrist primarily in rightfield), with the possibility of moving around the infield and into the outfield, where he last played as a rookie in 2005 with Atlanta.

"I'm open to anything," Johnson said. "I'm excited to be part of it. … It's always a good team. They're fun to watch. They're the type of team when you're on the other side you don't like playing them. … I'm pumped."

Johnson, 30, has shown the potential for power and a good on-base percentage but also has been prone to strikeouts. Over the past two seasons with Arizona and Toronto, he had 37 home runs and 113 RBIs but a .223 average and 322 strikeouts in 289 games. His best season was 2010 with the Diamondbacks when he hit .284 with a .370 on-base percentage, 26 homers and 71 RBIs.

In adding Johnson plus reliever Kyle Farnsworth and DH Luke Scott, whose deals are also set to be made official this week, the Rays will have to drop three players off the 40-man roster. Areas of surplus include catcher (Robinson Chirinos, Stephen Vogt), middle infield (Reid Brignac, Elliot Johnson), and reliever (Dane De La Rosa).

CATCHING ON: Chirinos said all signs and symptoms of the spring training concussion that forced him to miss all of last season are gone and, having played about 30 games in Venezuela during the winter with no issues, he is ready to go. "Thank God everything is fine, it's back to where it was before," he said.

PITCHING IN: Right-hander Alex Cobb goes into spring training with a legitimate opportunity to win a spot in the rotation following the trade of James Shields, and a determination to do so. "My mind-set is that that's my job and I've got to protect my job and keep it because there are plenty of other options available," he said. "I feel it's my job to lose."

WORKING OUT: More than a dozen players participated in a Monday workout at the Trop, which was open to reporters, much to the surprise of Cy Young Award winner David Price, who wore a striped tank top (see video, tampabay.com/blogs/rays). "Of course the first day I wear a cutoff shirt there's media here," he laughed.

Also attending: pitchers Brandon Gomes, Josh Lueke, Jake McGee, Jake Odorizzi; catchers Jose Lobaton and Jose Molina (who is getting ready for the World Baseball Classic); outfielder Matt Joyce; infielder Shawn O'Malley, Elliot Johnson and Rodriguez.

Around the majors

JETER'S PROGRESS: Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter worked out on a field for the first time since breaking his left ankle in October, fielding grounders at the minor-league complex in Tampa. "Everything went well," Jeter said. In other Yankees news, outfielder/first baseman Juan Rivera agreed to a minor-league contract.

PITCHER LOSES SPLEEN: Free-agent right-hander Carl Pavano's spleen was removed last week after he was injured when he fell in the snow. Pavano, 37, was hurt in mid January at his home in Vermont but didn't realize how badly until several days later. He has been in a Connecticut hospital for nearly two weeks. "He lost a lot of blood. It was very, very serious," agent David Pepe said.

EX-YANKEE RETIRES: First baseman Nick Johnson, 34, who spent 10 injury-plagued seasons with the Yankees, Expos/Nationals, Marlins and Orioles, plans to announce his retirement.

CARDINALS: Infielder Ronny Cedeno agreed to a $1.15 million, one-year contract.

PHILLIES: Right-handed reliever Chad Durbin agreed to a one-year contract to return to the team that he helped to the 2008 World Series championship. Also, infielder Yuniesky Betancourt agreed to a minor-league contract.

RED SOX: Outfielder Ryan Kalish is set to have surgery on his right shoulder today and miss spring training.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Rays sign veteran infielder Kelly Johnson 01/28/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 28, 2013 10:15pm]

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