Will the indignities ever end for Ben Johnson? Here’s a guy who, a year ago at this time, was optimistically looked upon as an up-and-comer with a shot at stealing at least a part-time job in the Mets outfield. While visions of another Xavier Nady were a stretch, Johnson, like Nady, was a young outfielder with some nascent skills acquired in a trade with the Padres. His chances of making the team last spring were reflected in his slot on the 40-man roster and the dignified uni number, 4.
But after a year spent mainly nursing injuries in AAA and flubbing what seldom chances he got with the Mets (5 hits in 27 at-bats), the Mets assigned No. 4 to weak-hitting infielder Anderson Hernandez and Johnson was released this winter. Heath Bell, the relief pitcher traded to San Diego for Johnson, had in the meantime had established himself as one of the league’s top set-up men, not that the Mets could have used one of those last season. Cough.
Recently re-signed to a minor league deal by the Mets, Johnson is reporting to camp this week in No. 92. Not that we’ve ever kept these kinds of records but if there’s a larger drop from one camp the next than 88 digits, we’d like to know.
The Mets placed Shawn Green 20 onto the disabled list Tuesday and recalled Ben Johnson,who entered the game later that night as a defensive replcement in the outfield. Johnson, whom the Mets received in the Heath Bell trade, wore the same No. 4 as he sported in spring training.
In the meantime shamed reliever Guillermo Mota 59 completed his 50-game juicing suspension and re-joins the Mets tonight in place of struggling bullpener Ambiorix Burgos 40.
Over the weekend we failed to mention the return from the disabled list of Orlando Hernandez 26 and the subsequent demotion of pitcher Jason Vargas 43.
The Mets following a rare spring training victory today said Aaron Sele and ‘Bazooka’ Joe Smithwould be added to the big-league roster, a development that threw the Metly future of Chan Ho Park 61 into question. As things shake out it’s come down to Park, Ambiorix Burgos 40and optionless/hapless acquiree Jon Adkins 39 for the seventh and final bullpen slot; The Mets will go with four starters the first few times around before recalling Mike Pelfrey 34 to become the 5th starter. That may prove to reward precocious prospect Lastings Milledge 44 for a strong showing this spring seeing as outfielder Ben Johnson 4 was cut today (along with lesser hopefuls Mike Carp 64, Lino Urdaneta 68, Anderson Hernandez 1, Ruben Gotay 6, Mike DiFelice 30 and Sandy Alomar Jr. 90).
Spring leaders of the Ring-Bell for Adkins-Johnson trade are the Padres, who’ve gotten a 0.90 ERA out of Heath Bell thus far.
Word from the Daily News is the Mets will commemorate Smith’s promotion by slashing his uniform number in half, from 70 to 35. Ironically, that’s the same number they tried to assign to last year’s righthanded submariner, Chad Bradford, before Bradford fled for the quirkier 53.Troublingly, that’s also the number rosters list Sele as wearing, unless Sele switched while I wasn’t looking (entirely possible). Any help? Thanks.
Thanks to Matt for the tip — Mets.com has posted a new roster page, assigning numerals to the 40 men on the 40-man. Though these lists have proven unreliable in the past, they’re usually fun and sometimes surprising. Right off the bat, we’re surprised to see Damion Easley be assigned No. 3 when he’s more often associated with No. 2 (even though the latter belongs to Sandy Alomar); and Scott Schoeneweis listed in 36 rather than his customary 60. We wouldn’t be surprised to see either change before the bell rings on the new season.
Other new guys and their alleged numbers:
Jon Adkins 39
Adam Bostick 72
Ambiorix Burgos 40
Jorge Sosa 29 (goodbye, Steve Trachsel)
Jason Vargas 43
Ruben Gotay 6 (poifict!)
Carlos Gomez 61
Ben Johnson 4
David Newhan 17
Points of interest in Nonroster Inviteeland:
Aaron Sele 35
Mike DiFelice 30 (this would be his 3rd number in 3 calls for the Mets)
Ruben Sierra 19 (yes, Ruben Sierra)
Quick update on the first Met Uni Controversy of the 06 offseason: Veteran outfielder Moises Alousigned a 1-year deal today and was presented with the No. 18 jersey. That number belonged last season to Jose Valentin, who was also re-signed recently. Newsday relates that Valentin willingly surrendered the digits after learning who asked for them: “You tell him he’s got the number.”
The guess here is that Valentin resurfaces in No. 22, a number that last season belonged to Xavier Nady then to Michael Tucker.
In other news the Mets dealt Nov. 15 for outfielder Ben Johnson (No. 4) and pitcher Jon Adkins (No. 57) of the Padres: Going to Petco are relievers Heath Bell 19 and Royce Ring 43. Should Johnson make the roster, he could remain in No. 4 since it doesn’t appear Chris Woodward is coming back. The Mets further cleared their roster of homegrown relief prospects by sending a pair of hard-throwers, Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom, to Florida for two lefty projects: Jason Vargas and Adam Bostick. Owens made a brief appearance for the Mets last season wearing No. 36; we might have smelled a deal cooking in back in September when the Mets issued that number to a backup catcher, Kelly Stinnett. Vargas, who wore No. 56 for the Marlins last season is the guy with the best chance to make something of himself though he hasn’t done so yet. Bostick has yet to crack the majors.
Also: Vetejourneyutilityman Damion Easley was added as a free agent. Easley’s been everywhere, man, but most recently in Arizona and Florida, he was wearing No. 2. That number currently belongs to coach Sandy Alomar.