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Tampa Bay Rays' other hero, Dan Johnson, waits for another chance at the majors

Evan Longoria got a figurine, a T-shirt and a prominent place on the redecorated Tropicana Field wall, among other accolades, commemorating his Game 162-ending, playoffs-clinching home run last season. • Dan Johnson, who hit the home run with two outs in the ninth inning that made Longoria's home run possible, got a text message from a friend telling him a white seat had been installed to mark where his ball landed.

The residuals have been a little different for the other hero of the Rays' improbable final-night dramatics.

While Longoria has been feted and again, Johnson is toiling in the minors for the Triple-A Charlotte Knights (after two three-run homers Saturday, he is hitting .303 with three homers, 17 RBIs and an impressive .466 on-base percentage) after a spring bid to make the White Sox roster didn't pan out.

What Johnson, 32, is hoping for, and without an out clause in his contract, waiting for, is a chance to get back to the big leagues, which frustratingly never came during the winter.

"That would be the ultimate," he said. "I'm not still playing this game to be in the minor leagues. I'm playing to get back to the top. And I have a lot of good years left."

Johnson has his jersey and the bat from his homer — which Rays 2B/RF Ben Zobrist calls "the most clutch hit I've ever seen" — and some splendid memories he has shared in a few interviews, but that's about it. (Neither he nor the Rays got the ball back.)

"It was crazy how it worked out," Johnson said. "I still can't believe it. You couldn't write a script about it."

There has been some chatter that the Rays should bring Johnson in to be honored, but he said right now, he's only interested in coming back as a player. (And thus was surprised to hear Brandon Allen was claimed as he didn't know the Rays were looking for another lefty-swinging, power-hitting first base/outfield type, noting, "I kind of fit that role.")

And if he were to return, what about that white seat behind the rightfield foul pole that should at least have his name on it?

"I'd want to sit a little closer," he said.

Among others who moved on from last year's team:

1B Casey Kotchman, Indians: Playing regularly but not playing well; hitting only .143, snapping an 0-for-24 skid Friday, with a .239 on-base percentage.

OF/DH Johnny Damon, Indians: Ignored all spring, signed a minor-league deal in April; working out at their Arizona base with a plan to go to Triple A then the big leagues in early May as the primary leftfielder.

RHP Juan Cruz, Pirates: Earned a job in the bullpen this spring and has done well thus far with a win, two saves and a 0.00 ERA in eight appearances through Friday.

C John Jaso, Mariners: Traded for RHP Josh Lueke; is pretty much the backup to Miguel Olivo, starting three times in the first three weeks.

C Kelly Shoppach, Red Sox: Aside from his 4-for-7 festival against the Rays that included a stolen base, has done little; .211 (4-for-19) against everyone else through Friday as Jarrod Saltalamacchia's backup

RHP Andy Sonnanstine, free agent: After signing with the Cubs, refused an end-of-spring assignment to Triple-A Iowa and became a free agent; is back at his home in St. Petersburg enjoying the mental break and working out regularly, in his words, "to be ready if the right opportunity presents itself."

OF Justin Ruggiano, Astros Triple A: Playing at Oklahoma City; .263 average, 1 HR, 11 RBIs in 21 games through Friday.

RHP Adam Russell, Braves Triple A: Pitching at Gwinnett; 3-0, 2.45 ERA and one save in nine games through Friday.

Other 2011 Rays

On the disabled list: Robinson Chirinos, Kyle Farnsworth, Sam Fuld, Jose Lobaton

In minors: Reid Brignac, Jay Buente, Russ Canzler (Indians), Alex Cobb, Rob Delaney (Marlins), Dane De La Rosa, Mike Ekstrom (Rockies), Brandon Guyer, Cesar Ramos, Alex Torres

Inactive: Felipe Lopez, Manny Ramirez (serving suspension)

Rays rumblings

So much for the big Trop crowds. The question this week is if they draw more than 10,000 for any of the Mariners games. … Carlos Peña was the 1,221st player to reach 1,000 hits and first with a homer since Royals OF Jeff Francoeur in September. … A calendar featuring Rays players and their dogs is coming out this week. … DH Hideki Matsui, expected to finalize a minor-league contract soon, is still a big deal in Japan and to Japanese media. … All-Star voting starts Monday at the Trop. … Peña asked an interesting question: If bunting is frowned upon late in games that aren't close, what about teams shifting?

Got a minute? Brandon Gomes

Something you're scared of? I hate snakes; any and all kinds.

Go-to karaoke song? Green Day's Longview.

Favorite TV show? Dexter.

What would be your rapper name? Let's go with Little B Geezy.

Celebrity crush? Olivia Wilde. Still.

Tampa Bay Rays' other hero, Dan Johnson, waits for another chance at the majors 04/28/12 [Last modified: Saturday, April 28, 2012 10:12pm]
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