SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- There have, before the 2008 season, been eleven men surnamed "Johnson" who have played for the Cubs.
In fact, you've probably seen most of them play, as only four -- Abe Johnson, who pitched in one game in 1893, "Footer" Johnson, who had a cuppa coffee in 1958, Ben Johnson, who pitched a few games in 1959 and 1960, and Don Johnson, a six-year Cub in the 1940's who was the starting 2B on the 1945 NL champions, played for the Cubs before 1960. I remember just about all of the rest of them: Lou Johnson, an outfielder who had his better years for the Dodgers; Cliff Johnson, who had his better years for the Astros; Ken Johnson, ditto; Davey Johnson, who had his better years for the Braves; Howard Johnson, who had his better years for the Mets...
You sensing a pattern here? There were two others: Bill Johnson, a onetime hot prospect who pitched in 14 games for the Cubs in 1983 and 1984... and Lance Johnson, who although he also had his better years for other teams, had a decent year as the starting CF for the 1998 Wild Card Cubs (despite missing about two months with an injury).
To this we add Reed Johnson, whose signing must have been in the works for a couple of days, because there he was in uniform, wearing Neifi Perez' (and Will Ohman's) old #13, and patrolling CF, this afternoon in front of another sellout, 11,999 at Scottsdale.
One day, of course, won't tell us much, but he played a good outfield... until he dropped a ball leading off the ninth inning after having moved from CF to RF (and I was stunned to learn he hadn't been charged with an error -- he dropped the ball!). He singled and doubled and reached third on an error, and flew around the bases pretty good running out the latter.
All of this is to say he was a contributor to the Cubs' 7-5 win over the Giants, their third in a row. Yet another Johnson, minor leaguer Leon Johnson, pinch-hit for Rich Hill in the sixth inning and grounded out.
Hill, for his part, threw better than he has all spring. Though his command still wasn't great, he only walked one and struck out six, including three called. Kevin Hart was the one who had a tough day today -- he gave the Giants two hits, a walk, and could have been out of the inning had Henry Blanco been able to locate a dropped third strike and throw Fred Lewis out. Instead, Sean Marshall, who had relieved Hart, gave up a game-tying double to Rich Aurilia, but then Lewis was thrown out trying to put the Giants ahead, and that left the score 4-4 after seven.
Upon which the Cubs took the lead back on reliever Tyler Walker; Kosuke Fukudome walked (his second of the day), stopped at third on a Mike Fontenot double (even from where we were on the RF berm, we could tell that Fukudome had to hold up at first, and with no one out it was wise to hold him at third), and scored the lead run on a Matt Murton sac fly.
Earlier, the Cubs had taken a 2-1 lead on Geovany Soto's third-inning HR. Ken, who sits in LF in the Wrigley bleachers (not ballhawk, but another Ken), came over to tell us that Soto's blast completely cleared the LF berm -- which would have made it about a 420-foot shot.
Derrek Lee also homered, after R. Johnson's triple, and for the first time all year, we saw D-Lee hit for power to left field. I've been waiting to see him pull the ball all spring, and he did today, not a moment too soon.
I wrote about this last year, but the Giants' spring training jerseys are absolutely ridiculous. Black shirts with black numbers with orange outlines are absolutely impossible to read unless you are ten feet away or closer, which, of course, most people in the park aren't. (From what I have heard, even the Giants' broadcasters have complained, to which the response from the Giants' marketing department was, essentially, "Screw you, we're doing it anyway.") Combine that with the fact that we couldn't hear the PA speakers from the RF berm, and it was almost impossible to figure out any Giants lineup changes (they didn't make too many today, which made it easier).
Things seem to be falling into place. Reed Johnson isn't a great player, but his lifetime splits vs. LHP are .308/.371/.462; he runs the bases well and plays good defense, which will not only make him a fine platoon partner for Felix Pie, but will also allow Lou to use him as a pinch-hitter vs. LHP, and a pinch-runner when needed.
The final roster spot will likely be decided between Sean Marshall and Carmen Pignatiello, both of whom pitched today. Neither did that well, though Piggy should have been charged with an unearned run after Johnson dropped the fly ball in the 9th. Also to be determined is the status of Matt Murton, who seems to be odd-man-out after the acquisition of Johnson. He may wind up traded or sent to Iowa. We, as always, await developments.Finally, the Giants' scoreboard people didn't waste any time photoshopping Johnson into a Cubs uniform. Get a load of the beard:
Photo by Al