Johnson leaves as the team cites personal reasons
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 7, 2002
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Reserve infielder Russ Johnson left the Rays on Saturday for what team officials said were "personal reasons."
Johnson flew to his Louisiana home and Rays officials expect him to rejoin the team on Thursday after the All-Star break.
Rays officials would provide no details of what led to Johnson's departure, whether it had to do with health, behavior, financial or other issues.
"Personal reasons is all I'm going to say," manager Hal McRae said. "I'm just going to leave it at "personal.' That generally covers it. You see that in the paper all the time."
Johnson, 29, has not been happy about his playing time. His start Tuesday night in Texas, when he went 0-for-3, was his first since June 11.
Rays officials and players declined to discuss specifics of the situation, such as whether Johnson appeared despondent, distracted or upset in recent days.
"Anyone who has personal issues should take whatever time they need," catcher John Flaherty said. "Hopefully he'll take care of whatever he needs to do first and not worry about this game and this team. He needs to do whatever he needs to do before thinking about coming back. The game's not important for him right now."
The Rays did not make a roster move before Saturday's game and probably won't for today's first-half finale, McRae said.
Johnson's departure follows an unprecedented situation that took place after Friday's game, when the Rays refused to open their clubhouse to media for 1 hour, 20 minutes with no explanation. McRae and several players were brought into a lobby area to discuss the game but would not say why the clubhouse remained closed.
Johnson won the starting third-base job in spring training, but opened the season on the disabled list because of a foot injury. He came back after missing 11 games, but hit just .207 and lost his job with the May 8 recall of Jared Sandberg.
Johnson has a two-year contract paying him $575,000 this season and $775,000 in 2003. He is married with two young sons.
ON THE RUN: Randy Winn's first-inning stolen base was his 69th as a Ray, tying Miguel Cairo's team record.
TAKE IT EASY: McRae knows exactly what he wants his players to do after tonight's game.
"When we're done, they should just relax," McRae said. "Guys are going to go home and guys are going to scatter about the country. I just hope they enjoy themselves and come back Thursday ready to go.
"Hopefully, they'll just forget about baseball for two or three days. There's nothing that we can accomplish over the All-Star break. We can accomplish something on the 11th, but we can't accomplish anything Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.
"So relax, refresh and come back ready to go."
POWER BALL: Alex Rodriguez (26 homers), Jason Giambi, Paul Konerko (20) and Torii Hunter (19) should do a pretty good job representing the American League in Monday's All-Star Home Run Derby.
But Winn, who has six homers this season and 16 total in his major-league career, said he would serve if needed.
"Maybe as a last-minute addition if everybody else can't do it," Winn said.
Winn heads to Milwaukee after tonight's game. He said the itinerary of events didn't appear too overwhelming, though he wasn't too excited about the media interview session. "I didn't know about that one," he said.
PATCHWORK: Trainer Jamie Reed said the Rays have been using a relatively new technological development to treat Greg Vaughn's bruised right shoulder -- a patch that electronically delivers anti-inflammatory medication 24 hours a day.
The Ionto Patch is actually two patches, one with a positive charge and one with a negative charge. When applied together, the patches continually deliver the medicine into the shoulder.
Vaughn, sidelined since crashing into the outfield wall June 22 at Colorado, is scheduled to be examined today by Dr. Lewis Yocum.
MISCELLANY: Sandberg and reliever Travis Harper hadtouches of a stomach virus on Friday similar to what forced Winn from Thursday's game. ... Double-A Orlando's Dewon Brazelton, using a new slider, had what may have been his best professional game on Friday, allowing one run and four hits over seven innings, striking out eight. He is 1-5 with a 3.10 ERA. ... Brent Abernathy matched his career high and the team record with four hits on Friday. Jason Conti tied his career best with three hits.
HOME DATES: 40
HOME TOTAL: 512,150
HOME AVERAGE: 12,803
2001 AVERAGE: 16,029
LARGEST: 38,142 vs. Tigers, April 2
SMALLEST: 10,130 vs. A's, May 30
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