Oakland Athletics remove Jim Johnson from closer's role
It's been only eight games, but Jim Johnson has lost his job as Oakland's closer. On Thursday morning, A's manager Bob Melvin announced that Johnson would no longer pitch in save situations. The move comes after Johnson blew a save against the Twins on Wednesday, his second blown save of the season. On the year, Johnson is 0-2 with an 18.90 ERA and a 4.50 WHIP, having allowed seven earned runs, nine hits and six walks in 3 1/3 innings.
Johnson, who was acquired from the Orioles in the offseason, told reporters that he wasn't surprised by Melvin's decision. Melvin declined to say how long Johnson would be out of the closer's role.
Wednesday's outing against Minnesota was emblematic of Johnson's season to date. He allowed four of the five hitters he faced to reach base, and the only out he recorded came on a bunt popped up in front of home plate. Starting the inning with a 4-2 lead, Johnson gave up two walks and a single to load the bases, then surrendered an RBI single by Jason Kubel to make it 4-3. Johnson was pulled after Kubel's single, and reliever Dan Otero allowed a sacrifice fly to tie the game before getting out of the inning. Oakland went on to win in the 11th.
Johnson has been on shaky ground from the season's first game, when he allowed two runs on two hits and a walk, retiring just one hitter, in a 2-0 loss to Cleveland. Johnson has yet to record a clean inning in a game so far this season and has given up runs in three of his five appearances. He struggled last season in Baltimore as well; despite a league-high 50 saves, Johnson blew nine save opportunities and lost eight times while seeing his ERA rise half a run from 2012 to '13. Despite that, and his $10 million price tag, Oakland general manager Billy Beane sent former starting second baseman Jemile Weeks to the Orioles in exchange for Johnson, who took over for the departed Grant Balfour in the closer's role.
To replace Johnson, Melvin said that he would go to a revolving cast of relievers, including Otero, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Luke Gregerson. Cook saved 14 games in 2012 as part of a closer-by-committee along with Balfour and Brian Fuentes; Gregerson, acquired from San Diego in the offseason in exchange for outfielder Seth Smith, has 16 career saves. Doolittle and Otero have three career saves between them, all belonging to the lefthanded Doolittle. Given Johnson's price tag, it's likely that he'll get another shot to close -- if he can figure out what's been ailing him so far.