Still time for Johnson to show he's got it

Kelly Johnson rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the Athletics in Oakland, Calif.,...

Kelly Johnson rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the Athletics in Oakland, Calif., July 1, 2011. (KEVIN BARTRAM/Reuters)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:53 PM ET

TORONTO - Third base coach Brian Snitker remembers how highly the Atlanta Braves thought of Kelly Johnson at one time.

He had a good game and I remember Bobby Cox saying: This kid might lead the league in hitting some day, recalled Snitker from Wrigley Field where the Braves were playing Tuesday night.

Cox, the former Blue Jays manager and future hall of famer, did not throw around those type compliments the same way the late Sparky Anderson did.

And on May 1, 2007, Johnson owned a .326 average.

The Austin, Tex., native didnt stay there, finishing the season, hitting .276.

I know that that hasnt happened ... I know his numbers arent good ... not yet, but I love his swing, Snitker said.

Johnson, acquired Monday from the Arizona Diamondbacks for infielders Aaron Hill and John McDonald, has a lifetime .260 average after 758 games in six seasons.

Johnson was not in the lineup Wednesday at game time he was at 30,000 feet but is expected to hit sixth and play second base Thursday night against Kansas City Royals lefty Jeff Francis, a London, Ont. resident.

At the time of Mondays trade the Diamondbacks were in Washington playing the Nationals. Since the trip did not include a visit to Canada, Johnson didnt have his passport with him.

So, he flew Washington to Phoenix on Tuesday and Phoenix to Toronto on Wednesday, arriving after the first pitch.

Is Johnson the opening day second baseman next April?

Does Aaron Hill return as a free agent if the Diamondbacks make him a free agent?

Does general manager Alex Anthopoulous deal prospects for the next Robbie Alomar?

Ah, no chance of that, how bout a young Orlando Hudson?

I had Kelly for some time in the minors, said Snitker, who joined the Braves after Fredi Gonzalez left to manage the Florida Marlins after the 2006 season. Johnson beat Snitker to the majors, but lost his job to Martin Prado in 2009 and was in his second season with Arizona. Gonzalez is back managing the minors with ex-Jays manager Carlos Tosca at his side as the bench coach.

I always thought Kelly was a great talent, he always had power and was a heck of a player, Snitker said. He can do a lot of things whether hes at second base or in the outfield.

Snitker managed Johnson at double-A Greenville in 2003-04 and at triple-A Richmond in 2006.

In his first season at Greenville, Johnson had six homers and 45 RBIs as he hit .275 with a .765 OPS in 98 games.

The second season at Greenville Johnson batted .282 with 16 homers and 50 RBIs with an .818 OPS in 135 games.

At Richmond, Johnson batted .310 with eight homers and 22 RBIs in 44 games.

Im glad to see him get another start, Snitker said. Hes his own worst enemy. He puts too much pressure on himself.

Johnson paired with shortstop Yunel Escobar as the Braves double play combo in 2008.

There will be a small period of adjustment, said Escobar, as Jose Bautista acted as a translator.

With McDonald being dealt, Bautista now has a shot at being the Jays most popular player.

Kellys a very good second baseman and a good teammate, Escobar said.

Scouts give a small advantage to Johnson over Hill fielding the ball and a large advantage to Johnson on turning double plays.

But who knows how Johnson will handle a move from first place two games up to fourth place, 13 games off the pace.

I was talking to some of the guys who said there was problems with Aarons defence, said Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur, another former Brave. They wont have problems with Kellys defence.

With Colby Rasmus out with a sore wrist, the Jays promoted Darin Mastroianni, who started Wednesday in centre field.

The Jays will decide Thursday Johnson, who they will move to clear up a roster spot for him.


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