Originally written on Mets Fever  |  Last updated 12/22/11
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Mets announced today that they have signed Rob Johnson to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.  The 28 y/o right hander is considered to have a strong arm and works well with pitchers, but had issues toward the end of his stay in Seattle with passed balls despite being described as a defensive specialist.  Below is a video of Johnson throwing out Willie Bloomquist who stole 20 bases, from his knees...



Johnson was selected in the 4th round of the 2004 draft by the Mariners out of the University of Houston.  He made his major league debut in 2007 appearing in 7 games for the Mariners, over the next three seasons he would appear in 155 games in Seattle serving mostly as the back-up catcher.  The Pads would trade for him and last season he appeared in 67 games. Offensively his numbers are stark; .197 BA, .275 OBP, .297 Slg. and .573 OPS.

This would have been Johnson's first year of arbitration and it was estimated that he'd make $422k,  If he catches on with the Mets they can control him for two more years.

As I said before, while his offensive numbers are stark, his appeal is behind the plate...

"I had a discussion with Joh, and we try to prioritize what's most important for this club," Wakamatsu said. "Getting hits is not the No. 1 thing. Winning ball games is, and having a belief system with the starting pitcher, and pitchers in general. Rob right now seems to have a strong relationship with the guys that he's catching. Joh's done a lot of things well. He's throwing the ball extremely well. He's raised his average." source Seattle Times

He kind of sucks at blocking balls. His 2009 rate of passed balls was twice the league average, and the Mariners were a bottom-third team in wild pitches. In addition, I couldn't tell you how many times I saw Johnson flat-out drop a pitch that hit him in the glove. source Look out landing

Johnson felt his poor defensive performance at the end of his stint in Seattle could be attributed to recovering from multiple surgeries.  That notion seems to be supported by not only his handling of pitchers but his rebound defensively in San Diego...

Johnson said that he could have played better with Seattle in 2010.
"First of all I knew going into the season it was going to be tough," he said.
That is because the Butte native, who lives with his wife, Kristan, and family in Arizona, had four surgeries within a month following the 2009 season.
"I had surgery on my left wrist in Seattle (Nov. 17, 2009), hip surgery for torn labrum (on his right hip, (Oct. 15) and left hip (Nov. 3) in Vail, Colorado, and eye surgery in Arizona," said Johnson, who was still the Opening Day catcher for Seattle in 2010. source Montana Standard


As a result Johnson struggled with both his duties as a catcher and as a hitter. “I couldn’t get into the catching stance that I wanted to get into,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t as quick as I normally had been. I wasn’t getting the balls out of the dirt I felt like I should have been getting to. I wasn’t swinging the bat well because I couldn’t rotate like I wanted to.”

After the season, Johnson finally received the time off he needed to heal up and get back to feeling a hundred percent. However, the Mariners decided it was time for a change and they traded him to the Padres. “It’s just a completely new chapter in my life,” Johnson said. “I think it was time to turn the page. I am thankful the Padres picked me up and I am really enjoying my time over here."

>Manager Bud Black is also thankful to have Johnson on his roster. “He is a guy that can catch,” Black said. “When he gets behind the plate we feel comfortable about him doing the right things as far as pitch selection and handling the pitching staff.” source San Diego Sports

Regarless of whether it was Seattle or San Diego and despite the defensive struggles in 2009-2010, one thing can be said about Johnson pitchers like throwing to him and have better results when they do...

Johnson, carries just a .197 lifetime average in 228 Major League games, but he posted a 3.26 catcher's ERA with the Padres last season, the fifth-best mark in the Majors among backstops with 50 or more starts. source Padres.com
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