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Rays expect Johnson in 'next several days'
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 9, 2005
ST. PETERSBURG - Devil Rays officials say they still don't know the nature of the personal situation keeping Charles Johnson away from the team. But after an exchange of voice mail messages with Johnson on Friday, general manager Chuck LaMar said he expects the veteran catcher to be back soon, with Tuesday perhaps most likely.
"It looks like this will not be a long, drawn-out situation," LaMar said. "I think in the next several days that he will get things resolved and be back with the club."
Johnson, 33, stunned team officials Wednesday with his request for a leave of absence, and LaMar told him if he wasn't back on Friday he would be placed on the restricted list without pay. The Rays made that move Friday, emptying Johnson's locker in the process, and brought up Tim Laker from Triple-A Durham to serve as the backup.
There has been speculation Johnson might retire, but LaMar said he does not believe that is the case.
"We haven't had that discussion, so you'd have to ask him. But by all indications, and I got a message from his agent (Scott Boras) and he indicated the very same that Charles did, that he needed some time to resolve a personal matter and that he expected him to be back with the club and ready to go," LaMar said.
Boras did not return calls.
The Rays say they still don't have an explanation why Johnson left except he said it was not a death or severe illness in his immediate family.
"Did he volunteer it? No," LaMar said. "Did I ask him? No. Did he owe me one? No." Laker, 35, signed with the Rays in hopes of winning the backup job but broke his left hand early in spring training and missed most of camp. He is a veteran of parts of nine major-league seasons and is known for his good handling of pitchers.
The Rays explained the situation to him Thursday before he boarded a flight to Tampa, and he said he'll try to make the best of it.
"It's pretty bizarre," he said. "They told me they pretty much had no idea; that I could come here (Friday) and not be activated. I could be activated for a few days. It could be the whole year. They don't really know. Personally, I wouldn't be disappointed if he decided to shut it down."
Johnson signed with the Rays on Monday after a spring in which he went to camp with the Rockies but knew he would be shipped out before opening day.
He was traded to Boston on March30 and immediately released with the understanding he would sign with the Rays.