D-backs trade Johnson to Toronto for 2 infielders

The Arizona Diamondbacks tried everything to give second baseman

Kelly Johnson a spark, from pep talks to days off.

With Johnson eligible to become a free agent at the end of the

season and the team in dire need of an offensive spark, the

Diamondbacks decided to go in a different direction.

Arizona traded the struggling Johnson to the Toronto Blue Jays

on Tuesday, picking up second baseman Aaron Hill and infielder John

McDonald in return.

”He’s struggled to put together a year like he had last year,”

Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said from Washington, D.C. ”It

wasn’t from a lack of work. To be honest with you, it was very

tough to tell him he got traded today. He has high expectations of

himself, he’s very professional. He worked harder – he probably

worked too hard.”

Johnson, 29, has been Arizona’s starting second baseman the past

two seasons after playing his first four years in Atlanta. He hit

.284 with 26 homers and 71 RBIs his first season in the desert, but

has been mired in a season-long funk this year, hitting .209 with

132 strikeouts and 18 homers.

”We felt it was probably going to be difficult to sign Kelly in

the offseason and within five months,” Diamondbacks GM Kevin

Towers said. ”And at this point in time it’s a sprint to the

finish line and I just probably kind of ran out of patience. I

thank him for everything he did and his contributions to this

organization over the last couple of years.”

The Blue Jays, who are well back in the AL East race, gave up

two of their longest-serving and most popular players for a player

they hope can turn it around before the end of the season. Blue

Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said Johnson had to return to Arizona to

get his passport and won’t likely arrive in Toronto until Wednesday

night.

”He’d be the first one to tell you, I’m sure, he’s not

performing the way he expected to, especially off the year he came

off last year,” Anthopoulos said. ”It’s a chance for us to get a

look at him and see how he does here. A very talented player who’s

had a lot of success in the past. Maybe he comes here and plays

well.”

The Diamondbacks have tried a variety of lineup changes to break

out of a recent offensive funk, but nothing has worked as their

lead in the NL West dwindled to a game over the World Series

champion San Francisco Giants. Arizona had scored seven runs during

a six-game losing streak heading into Tuesday night’s game against

Washington.

In trading Johnson, the Diamondbacks pick up another second

baseman trying to find his stroke.

Hill was an All-Star in 2009, when he hit .286 with 36 homers

and 108 RBIs, but fell off the next season, hitting just .205. The

29-year-old continued to struggle at the plate for the Blue Jays

this season, hitting .225 with six homers and 45 RBIs in 104

games.

”I know they’ve got a great squad and we’re happy to be in a

playoff race,” Hill said. ”We’re looking forward to seeing what

we can do there. This is a little tough – this is all I’ve

known.”

McDonald is expected to help Willie Bloomquist at shortstop with

Stephen Drew on the disabled list with a broken right ankle. The

scrappy 36-year-old has played 13 seasons with three teams, hitting

.250 in 65 games with Toronto this year.

”My opportunity to play for the Diamondbacks for the next five

or six weeks, plus post-season, is a great opportunity, an

opportunity that I wake up every morning thinking about,” said

McDonald, who had Gibson as his hitting coach during a 31-game

stint with Detroit in 2005.

”It’s kind of what every baseball player wants. You want to try

and play in the postseason and I’m extremely excited about that

opportunity.”

The Diamondbacks also placed right-hander Jason Marquis on the

60-day disabled list with a fractured right fibula.

The Diamondbacks had hoped Marquis would provide a boost to the

rotation after acquiring him for a minor leaguer from Washington.

He made just three starts for Arizona, allowing 12 earned runs on

22 hits in 11 innings before breaking his shin on a ball hit by the

Mets’ Angel Pagan on Aug. 14.

Freelance writers Ian Harrison in Toronto and Daimon Eklund in

Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.