Tigers call up Jim Johnson from Toledo
AUG 16, 2014 6:50p ET
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus announced the move after Saturday night's 4-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners, adding that reliever Melvin Mercedes is being returned to the Toledo Mud Hens to open a roster spot for Johnson.
When Joakim Soria (177 saves) returns from the 15-day disabled list, Ausmus will have three pitchers who have accumulated 647 career saves at his disposal. Joe Nathan, who picked up his 25th save of the season and No. 366 for his career on Saturday night, leads the way. Johnson has 124 saves, and was on the 2012 American League All-Star team.
Detroit signed Johnson, 31, to a minor league contract recently after the Oakland A's released him following an over-the-cliff four months in which he posted a 7.14 ERA and batters feasted against him with a .353 batting average.
He was assigned to Toledo last week, and impressed Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish in his last three outings.
Johnson pitched one scoreless inning Sunday against Lehigh Valley, and followed up with a perfect two innings Wednesday against Indianapolis. He allowed one run on two hits in one inning Friday versus Columbus, but Parrish told John Wagner of the Toledo Blade: "I thought he threw better than his results. The guy has good movement on his pitches."
Most importantly, the lack of control and pitch command that led to Oakland eating his $10 million contract for 2014 have been rediscovered. Johnson had allowed 5.1 walks per nine innings for the A's, but had only one in 4 2/3 innings with the Mud Hens.
Johnson has a 3.86 ERA for Toledo, and has allowed four hits with two strikeouts.
Calling up Johnson now allows him one game to get acquainted before Detroit begins a six-game road trip to play the Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.
Johnson is one of 11 pitchers to have reached the 50-save plateau in one season, and career saves leader Mariano Rivera and Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne are the only ones beside Johnson to do it twice.
Gagne (107 saves, 2002-03) and Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez (102, 2007-08) are the only two closers with more saves in successive seasons than Johnson's 101.
"I haven't really reflected on it too much," Johnson said when we spoke recently in Toledo. "Maybe 10 years from now I will reflect on it more.
"But now my focus is short-term to help here."
Ausmus has not budged on using Nathan as his closer despite his six blown saves this season. However, Johnson and Soria will provide definite options should Nathan struggle. And, coupled with Joba Chamberlain, Detroit will have four battle-tested relievers with quality track records when Soria returns from an oblique strain in the weeks ahead.