Indians Sign Lance Johnson
CLEVELAND (AP) _ Looking for help in center field with Kenny Lofton injured, the Cleveland Indians agreed to a minor league contract with 11-year veteran Lance Johnson. minor-league contract, his agent told the Associated Press.
The deal was confirmed by Johnson’s agent, Phil Tannenbaum, who said he reached agreement with the club earlier this week. The Indians said they were finalizing paper work before announcing Johnson’s signing.
Johnson, 36, spent the last 2 1/2 seasons with the Cubs and was recommended to the Indians by Jim Riggleman, Cleveland’s new third-base coach who managed Johnson in Chicago before being fired.
The Indians have been searching for a center fielder since Lofton had surgery on his left shoulder in December. Lofton tore his rotator cuff while diving headfirst into first base during last year’s playoffs against Boston and could be sidelined until the All-Star break.
Johnson will compete with Dave Roberts, Jacob Cruz and Alex Ramirez in spring training for the Indians’ starting job in center. Johnson’s experience could make him the favorite especially since, like Lofton, he is also a leadoff hitter.
An All-Star with the New York Mets in 1996, Johnson became the first player to lead both leagues in hits when he got 186 for the Chicago White Sox in 1995 and 227 for the Mets the following year.
Bothered by an abdominal strain, Johnson played in only 95 games for the Cubs last season, batting .260 with one homer and 21 RBIs. A career .291 hitter, Johnson is batting .303 since 1995.
Tannenbaum said Johnson is in Orlando, Fla., working out with track coach Bob Kersee and that he is fully recovered from his stomach injury.
Nicknamed, ``One Dog″ because he has always worn No. 1, Johnson led the AL in triples four consecutive seasons _ a major league record.