Saints Knuckle Under, Sign Former Major Leaguer, Blaine High School Grad Dan JohnsonST. PAUL, MN July 8, 2016
He hit one of the most memorable home runs in Tampa Bay Rays history. He hit 57 home runs in the Major Leagues and played 443 games with six different teams. His bat carried him through 16 seasons of baseball at every level, including internationally. Now he’s hoping his arm can get him back to The Show. Blaine graduate Dan Johnson has signed with the St. Paul Saints and the knuckleballer will be placed in the starting pitching rotation and start on Friday.
The 36-year-old Johnson has been tinkering with the knuckleball for the last few years and went to camp with the Tampa Bay Rays this year as a pitcher, the same team he hit a famous tying home run in Game 162 in 2011. After going to camp with the Rays he signed with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League on April 8, 2016. He pitched five games (four starts) and went 0-2 with a 7.50 ERA. In 18.0 innings pitched he walked 15 and struck out 14 while opponents hit .242 against him. The Bluefish traded him to the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League, on June 13, for a player to be named later, but was only used as a position player. As a position player between the two teams he hit .222 with seven home runs and 34 RBI in 58 games.
Johnson was a seventh round pick by the Oakland Athletics in 2001 out of the University of Nebraska. He rose rapidly through the organization slugging 58 home runs in his first three seasons from 2001-03 going from Low-A Vancouver, to High-A Modesto to Double-A Midland in those three seasons. He was named a Post-Season All-Star in 2003 after he hit .290 with 27 home runs and 114 RBI in 139 games.
In 2004 Johnson was named MVP of the Pacific Coast League and a Post-Season All-Star when he hit .299 with 27 home runs and 114 RBI in 142 games. In 536 at bats he scored 95 runs, crushed 29 doubles, five triples, a .403 on base percentage and a .534 slugging percentage.
Johnson got off to a Blazing start in 2005 at Triple-A Sacramento and made his Major League debut on May 27, 2005 vs. Cleveland. He collected his first Major League hit on May 29 against pitcher Jake Westbrook of the Indians, a single to left field. His first Major League home run came on June 21 against Joel Piniero of the Seattle Mariners in the third inning at Safeco Field.
On April 18, 2008 Johnson was claimed off of waivers by the Tampa Bay Rays and had an incredible 2010 season at Triple-A Durham. He hit .303 with 30 home runs and 95 RBI in 98 games and was promoted to the Rays where he played 40 games and hit .198 with seven home runs and 23 RBI. He was the International League MVP, a Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star in Durham and an MiLB.com Organizational All-Star.
In 2011 he had perhaps his most memorable moment as a professional with the Rays. He hit just .119 with two home runs and four RBI in 31 games in the Major Leagues, but one of the home runs came at the most opportune time. With the Rays down one run to the Yankees, and fighting for their playoff lives in Game 162, Johnson pinch hit for Sam Fuld in the bottom of the ninth inning. On a changeup, Johnson clubbed a solo home run off the pole in right, tying the game at seven. The Rays would eventually go on to win and clinch a Wild Card spot.
Johnson would go on to earn Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star honors in 2012 at Triple-A Charlotte and mid-season All-Star honors with the Toronto Blue Jays Triple-A organization in Buffalo in 2014 along with being named an MiLB.com Organizational All-Star.
The last game Johnson played at the Major League level was on July 28 for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Johnson can only be utilized as a pitcher for the Saints and will maintain rookie status. He is considered a veteran as a position player, of which the Saints already have the league maximum five.
The Saints roster stands at a league maximum 23, 11 pitchers and 12 position players.