Roger Mooney covers the Tampa Bay Rays for The Tampa Tribune, TBO.com and News Channel 8. He has covered the Rays since their first season in 1998, including 11 years for the Bradenton Herald. Roger has also covered Florida, South Florida and Florida State football, the Bucs and the Lightning.
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Friedman, Brignac, Elliot Johnson react to roster moves
Posted Feb 5, 2013 by Roger Mooney
Updated Feb 5, 2013 at 11:22 PM
Neither Elliot Johnson nor Reid Brignac were surprised Tuesday when both were told they were designated for assignment because the Rays needed to open a pair of 40-man roster spots for pitcher Kyle Farnsworth and second baseman Kelly Johnson, who signed one-year deals earlier in the day.
“To a degree,” Johnson said. “They make all these signings (of middle infielders), and it’s clear, saying it nicely, that there is no room for you. But, clearly, the moves were deliberate, and they feel like they have a chance to win with some other guys, and that’s what they’re planning on doing.”
In addition to signing Kelly Johnson, a second baseman during the past six seasons, the Rays added shortstop Yunel Escobar this offseason. They also have Ben Zobrist, Ryan Roberts and Sean Rodriguez to play the infield.
“It wasn’t a surprise or a shock or anything like that,” Brignac said. “It’s the business side of baseball. These types of things happen. In my situation with the Rays, we got a lot of good middle infielders. Hopefully I get the opportunity for another team to claim me that needs help in that area.”
Brignac was the Opening Day shortstop in 2011. He replaced Jason Bartlett, who was traded to San Diego in the offseason.
While his .979 fielding percentage would have ranked him fifth among American League shortstops had he played enough games to qualify, his lack of offense forced him to the bench and, eventually, to Triple A Durham. His .193 batting average was the eighth-lowest among major leaguers with at least 200 at-bats.
Brignac lost the shortstop job last spring training to Sean Rodriguez. He did make the Opening Day roster but was optioned to Durham on April 21 and played in only 16 big league games in tour stints with the Rays, batting .095.
“With Reid we’re still believers in what he’s capable of doing at the major league level. But sometimes in professional sports a change of scenery is what’s best. I think he’s got a good career ahead of him and we wish him nothing but the best,” Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.
“Andrew and I talked about that a little bit,” he said. “A change of scenery might be a good thing for me.”
Brignac joined the organization in 2004 when he was selected in the second round of the draft.
“I’m grateful for everything the Rays have done for me,” he said. “It’s bittersweet leaving my friends and coaches who I’ve grown up with since I was 18. They molded me into the player that I am today. It’s baseball. It’s the business part of the game. That’s all it is right now. I’m thankful for everything they’ve done for me, and I’m really eager for the opportunities I have coming up.”
Johnson joined the organization in 2002 as an undrafted free agent. He made the Opening Day roster in 2008.
He made 63 starts at shortstop last season as the infield was reshuffled because of Evan Longoria’s hamstring injury. He committed 14 errors, including 11 at shortstop, and hit .242. He hit .263 when in the lineup and .301 with runners in scoring position.
“Look at what I did last year and you compare it to other guys on the team and other guys across baseball, you get a better picture of where you fit in in the market, and I think my numbers were more than sufficient to play at this level, especially if you look at the team,” Johnson said. “So I felt like they felt like they liked some of the guys a little bit better, so they went with them instead. With all things being equal they felt like they wanted to go somewhere else. I still feel like I’m a major league baseball player and I expect to be playing in the major leagues in 2013 and past that.”
Said Friedman, “Elliot was obviously a tough decision. We have a little more depth up the middle then we’ve had in recent years, but he’s provided a lot of value over the last couple of years and he is going to definitely make some team better in 2013. It was not an easy decision at all with him.”