Emotional Johnson grateful to O's, looks toward future
Closer happy to be a part of Baltimore's resurgence, now focuses on contributing to A's
BALTIMORE -- The typically stoic Jim Johnson paused for a few seconds in an effort to regain his composure, as the right-hander -- unusually emotional following Monday's trade to Oakland -- jokingly blamed reporters for getting all choked up.
"It actually just hit me five minutes ago," Johnson said in a telephone interview with MLB.com and MASNSports.com on Tuesday morning. "Really, I'm not like this."
But Monday's deal -- a shocking swap that netted the Orioles Jemile Weeks and a player to be named -- was tough to process for the homegrown Johnson, who was the longest-tenured player on the roster, a clubhouse leader and a strong advocate in the community.
"Obviously, watching the changes in the last couple of years [in the organization] and being a big part of it -- I'm sorry," Johnson said after a pause. "You've got to give a lot of credit to [manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette].
"It's been great playing there and for all my teammates and watching that city transform the last couple years. I take great pride in that. Obviously, I have great memories looking back."
Johnson was an integral part of the 2012 Orioles team that reached the postseason for the first time since 1997, as the right-hander went on to record the first of two consecutive 50-save seasons and was named to the American League All-Star team. Johnson, who took over the full-time closing role that year, was the subject of fan ire in '13, when he went 50-for-59 in save opportunities, leading the league in saves and blown saves during a season in which the O's were eliminated from playoff contention in the final week.
Johnson got word of the trade when flying out to San Diego, a trip scheduled for players' union meetings, and by the time Johnson landed on the West Coast, his phone was flooded with texts and phone calls.
"It's obviously going to be tough, but I'm not concerned about the baseball stuff. It's the family stuff your mind goes to -- your kids, your wife, all that stuff," said Johnson, who owns a home in Sarasota, Fla., where the Orioles hold Spring Training. "But we've got great friends and family, so we will let the baseball stuff work itself out. That's the easy part for me [to adjust to], the baseball stuff."
While Monday's trade was a shock, Johnson's name did surface in trade rumors earlier in the day, and the right-hander said he was made aware by friends about some of the speculation. The deal has been widely perceived as a financially-driven move, given that Johnson stands to make more than $10 million in arbitration and Duquette referenced "reallocating of the resources" several times in describing the move.
"You are asking the wrong guy," Johnson said when asked to opine on the reasoning behind the trade. "I have my own theories, but I'll keep them to myself. You know what, at this time I'm not going to focus on [that]. ... I had a great time, a great run, everything was great, but now I've got to focus on helping the Oakland A's. They are the team that wanted me; there is a reason why."
Johnson had already spoken with A's manager Bob Melvin and assistant general manager David Forst and said he's heard good things abut his new organization.
"It's a new chapter, you know, something that's new to me, but I'll be fine," Johnson said as he struggled to avoid getting choked up again. "I'm also very thankful to my past."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.