OAKLAND -- The Jim Johnson era in Oakland came to an ignominious end this morning as the struggling reliever was designated for assignment by the A’s. The move came on the heels of Johnson allowing four runs (three earned) while facing four batters in the A’s 9-7 win over the Astros on Wednesday night, raising his season ERA to 6.92.
Johnson left the A’s clubhouse this morning without addressing reporters. His final line with the A’s this season: a 4-2 record with two saves, one blown save and an ERA and opponents’ batting average of .353 that were both the highest among qualifying major-league relievers.
Johnson arrived with high expectations after saving 101 games for the Orioles over the past two seasons, but never seemed to recover from a bad start, taking the loss in his first outing with the A’s and blowing a save in his second. Manager Bob Melvin admitted it seemed as though Johnson’s struggles "just kept snowballing on him."
Melvin said telling Johnson he’d been DFA’d this morning "was very tough."
"There’s a human side to all this too," Melvin said. "The performance wasn’t great, but it’s not like he wasn’t accountable. It’s not like he didn’t feel bad about it. Like last night, the last thing he wants is for the rest of the bullpen to have to come in and be used.
"I just couldn’t get him in a spot where he could get on a roll, and I feel awful about it too because it’s my job to get him in a position to succeed, and it just didn’t happen here. But it’s not like his stuff was any different. He just had a tough time showing consistency."
While Johnson’s pitches, especially his signature sinker, didn’t seem to be entirely there early in the season, he and the A’s felt they improved as the season went on. But results did not come about, with Johnson at times falling victim to bloop hits that compounded big innings.
Johnson was removed from the closer role just weeks into the season and was constantly booed at home, beginning virtually from his first outing. Melvin said he didn’t know for sure if that weighed on Johnson, "but it was pretty consistent, and my guess is it probably affected him some."
Sean Doolittle, who has since taken over the closer role, said the feeling among the A’s players was that, "It was only a matter of time before he was going to right the ship.
"The attitude and the work ethic he brought to the field every day, in spite of the numbers and the struggles on the field, you wouldn’t have known that he was struggling. I think that says a lot about him as a person and a teammate, that he wasn’t going to let his struggles affect the bullpen or the team.
"I just have a ton of respect for him as a person and a teammate and a pitcher, and I just feel really bad that things didn’t work out for him the way we all hoped they would."
It’s now up to another team whether they want to claim Johnson off waivers and take on the remainder of his salary. Johnson has more than five years of MLB service time, so if he does clear waivers, he has the option of declining a minor-league assignment.
"A lot of times when you get dug into a hole like this, maybe the best thing for him is to get a change of scenery and a breath of fresh air," Melvin said. "It wouldn’t surprise me if somebody picked him up and he started to pitch a lot better."
To replace Johnson, the A’s recalled right-hander Evan Scribner from Triple-A. Scribner is 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA in 31 games this season for the River Cats, and has 57 strikeouts to just seven walks in 37 2/3 innings. He was flying into Oakland and scheduled to arrive around 11:30 a.m., and should be at the Coliseum by game time.
* Yoenis Cespedes is not in the A’s lineup today after spraining his right thumb last night bracing himself while falling on an awkward swing, but Melvin said Cespedes is possibly available off the bench.
"He’s better than I thought," Melvin said. "I think the swelling was minimal, it was just more the soreness in the joint."
Here’s the full A’s lineup behind right-hander Jeff Samardzija:
And the Astros’ lineup behind right-hander Scott Feldman:
* Alberto Callaspo (right hamstring strain) is tentatively scheduled to play in a minor-league rehab game Saturday. Melvin said there’s still a chance Callaspo could rejoin the A’s on Sunday, his first day eligible to come off the DL, but made it sound like it might be a day or two after that.
* Coco Crisp is in center field again today on a rare night game-day game turnaround. Melvin said there’s "a good chance" Crisp will be off either tomorrow or Saturday in Texas.
* Some Jarrod Parker news: The right-hander, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, recently visited Dr. James Andrews for a routine checkup and, Melvin said, "Everything in his checkup was terrific."
"He came in with a big smile on his face when he came back," Melvin said. "He knows how to rehab these things but I know he felt very good about what the doctor had to say."
* With the addition of Scribner, the A’s aren’t as thin in the bullpen as it looked like they might be following last night’s near-meltdown and Tuesday’s extra-innings loss. Scribner can throw multiple innings if necessary, and the A’s didn’t use Eric O’Flaherty last night. Still, they wouldn’t mind a lengthy outing from Samardzija, who seeks his second win in his fourth start with the A’s.