Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Daryl Van Schouwen and Chris De Luca

Johnson "shooting for stars" with White Sox

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Left-handed hitting first baseman Dan Johnson, who batted .119 in 91 at-bats for the Tampa Bay Rays last season, has been signed by the White Sox to a minor-league contract.

Johnson, 32, is best known for his two-out, two-strike home run against the New York Yankees on the final night of the 2011 regular season. It capped a seven-run comeback in an 8-7 Rays victory that clinched the American League wild card for Tampa Bay.

A career .235 hitter, Johnson's other home run in 2011 was a three-run shot against Sox lefthander Matt Thornton during the ninth inning on April 8. The Sox were leading 7-6 at the time, and Rays held on for to a 9-7 victory after they had trailed 7-4.

Johnson's flair for the dramatic extends further. Seven of his 11 Rays home runs either tied the score or gave his team a lead. He hit eight homers against the Rays' AL East rivals Boston and New York, including a tying shot against Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning of a September 2008 game in Boston. It was his first at-bat as a Ray, and the Rays went on to win.

Johnson, who was slowed by a wrist injury in 2011, declined an assignment to AAA Durham in October. He told the Tampa Tribune he believes he can make the Sox Opening Day lineup.

"I have to take it day by day, but that's the plan," Johnson said. "You don't play this game to shoot low. I'm going in there shooting for the stars."

Making the Opening Day roster will be a big enough challenge, even if Johnson's wrist is healthy. Paul Konerko is the Sox first baseman and $56 million man Adam Dunn is the designated hitter. The Sox are looking at Johnson as a possible backup and pinch-hitter.

Johnson batted .275 with 15 homers and 58 RBI as a rookie with the Oakland A's in 2005. In 2007 with the A's, he batted .236 with 18 homers and 62 RBI. He has also played one season in Japan.

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This page contains a single entry by Daryl Van Schouwen published on February 1, 2012 1:07 PM.

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