Cleveland Indians Make Bold Statement In Dumping Elliot Johnson

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On Saturday, the Cleveland Indians designated utility man Elliot Johnson for assignment, less than 24 hours after he committed two errors during a 12-5 win over the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Manager Terry Francona said the issues on Friday wasn’t the reason behind the move, but it seemed rather coincidental that the move was made so quickly after the tough game that also saw Johnson go 0-for-4 with two strikeouts with three men left on base.

The team also placed catcher Yan Gomes on the paternity list, which Francona said was a move that forced their hands in dumping Johnson. “Last night had nothing to do with it,” Francona said about the DFA of Johnson. “We explained to him that we were going to need a starter on Tuesday. When Gomer’s wife had the baby, it bumped it up about three days. We thought it put our team in the best position.”

Johnson was just 2-for-19 in seven games this season, a .105 average. He was inked to the Indians for his glove, and once that failed him on Friday night, it made the move by the team that much easier. The utility man beat out Justin Sellers, who is down at Columbus for the team and a phone call away if the club needs another defensive player.

Friday before the game, Johnson more or less foreshadowed the fact that if he didn’t play well, he might not see a long future with the team. “Playing time has been sparse prior to the injury (to Jason Kipnis), that’s why I am here, it’s time for guys to earn their checks so to speak,” Johnson said Friday. “I feel like this is why I was signed here in the first place.”

The two errors by Johnson put the Indians at 28 on the season, last in all of baseball.

“All along we hoped we could keep Elliot, whether he hit or not,” Francona said. “He can play every position. He can run. We never got quite into that where we could utilize him a lot. But we also knew at some point we might not be able to carry that guy.”

That day came Saturday, and the move, despite it not drawing many headlines in Major League Baseball, should be noticed by the players in the Indians locker room that the many mistakes the team has made in the first 29 games should not be ignored.

Matt Loede has covered the Cleveland Indians for 20 years for National Networks like AP Radio, Metro Networks and other local and national stations. Follow him on twitter @mattloede.

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