Johnson relieved to see trade deadline pass
ATLANTA (AP) — Josh Johnson is relieved the trade deadline has passed and he is still with the Miami Marlins.
“Yeah, it was nice,” Johnson said Tuesday. “It’s over, and I don’t have to answer any more questions about it after today.”
Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest swung two deals Tuesday, sending reliever Edward Mujica to St. Louis for minor league third baseman Zack Cox, a first-round draft pick in 2010. First baseman Gaby Sanchez, who lost his job earlier this year and was sent to the minors, was traded to Pittsburgh for minor league outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and a draft pick.
Beinfest and manager Ozzie Guillen plan to give Hernandez some starts in center field and move Justin Ruggiano to one of the corner outfield spots before Giancarlo Sanchez comes off the disabled list before Aug. 10.
Beinfest said Miami is building a nucleus for the future. The Marlins had already traded star third baseman Hanley Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers and sent infielder Omar Infante and starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez to Detroit last week before dealing Mujica and Sanchez.
The Marlins began the season in a new ballpark and spent $191 million in free agency, but their plan unraveled. Miami had lost nine of 12 and began Tuesday’s game against the Atlanta Braves 14 games out in the NL East.
“I looked at my lineup yesterday, and there was only one guy that was in the same position (from opening day),” Guillen said. “It was (shortstop Jose) Reyes. Everyone else was different. It’s embarrassing for me because we never thought we would go through that situation, not even close to being a scenario this year. No way. But you cannot blame anybody. You’ve got to blame us.”
Johnson is 6-7 with a 4.04 ERA this year, 54-30 with a 3.13 ERA in eight seasons with the Marlins. Though he is eligible for free agency after 2013, the right-hander hopes to stay with the franchise that drafted him in the fourth round of 2002.
“The rest of my career would be great,” Johnson said. “This is the only thing I’ve known. I’d love to stay here and be a part of it and be part of a World Series here.”
Former starter Carlos Zambrano, whom the Marlins acquired in an offseason trade with the Chicago Cubs, hopes to rejoin him in the rotation soon. For now, Zambrano has been relegated to the bullpen, where he feels uncomfortable.
Zambrano went 5-9 with a 4.53 ERA in 20 starts before being demoted to the `pen. He pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings Monday.
“If they put me in the bullpen, they put me in the bullpen,” Zambrano said. “I’ll keep doing my job and try to come back and be in the rotation again. The Cubs tried to do that to me and it didn’t work because my arm was not built to be in the bullpen. I have spent my whole career as a starter, but I have to do it. It will be there until — it is what it is.”
Guillen added that the departure of Mujica will have no bearing on his closer-by-committee approach. Heath Bell, who signed a three-year, $27 million contract in December to become Miami’s closer, is 2-5 with a 5.66 ERA and has blown six of 25 save opportunities.
“One thing I tell them is that nobody has a role here (in the bullpen),” Guillen said. “If the phone rings, get up. That’s what we’re going right now.”
Gaby Sanchez, a Miami native and an All-Star in 2011, hit .202 with three home runs and 17 RBIs before getting demoted to Triple-A in May for nearly a month.
“With Gaby, what happened with him this year offensively is something I think that’s been baffling to him and baffling to us,” Beinfest said. “Having to send him to the minor leagues this year was difficult on two separate occasions, so maybe this is the best opportunity for him.”
Part of the deal with Pittsburgh gave Miami an extra draft pick for 2013 that the Pirates won in the competitive balance lottery.
Beinfest said that Cox will report to Double-A Jacksonville, but the Marlins might give him a chance to win the third base job next year. Ramirez played third this season after Miami signed Reyes to a $106 million, six-year contract and made him the shortstop.
“(Cox has) moved through the Cardinals’ system very quickly, and third base is an area of need for us,” Beinfest said. “We thought it lined up. We loved the bat. We loved having a hitting third baseman.”
Now that the Marlins have trimmed some payroll and added new pieces, Johnson hopes the team will steer itself in a better direction.
“There was a lot of hype,” Johnson said. “We didn’t live up to it, but there’s still time to go out and play the game the right way.”