The Rays will sign Dan Johnson to a minor league deal, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain tweets. Johnson played first base for the Rays during parts of the 2008, 2010 and 2011 seasons (famously hitting a ninth-inning homer in 2011 that propelled the Rays to the playoffs) and spent the 2015 campaign playing first in the Cardinals and Reds organizations (appearing briefly in the big leagues with the Cards). He has also won MVPs in both the PCL and the International League and has logged over 4,000 career plate appearances in Triple-A.
Surprisingly, though, the Rays are signing Johnson this time not as a first baseman, but as a righty knuckleball pitcher. As Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune notes, the Rays recently hired former knuckleballer Charlie Haeger to be a minor league pitching coordinator, and Haeger is already working with another knuckleballer in Rays camp, Eddie Gamboa. Johnson, remarkably, is four years older than Haeger. If Johnson were to return to the big leagues as a knuckeball pitcher at age 36 after years spent on the fringes of the Majors as a first baseman, it would be an extremely unusual twist in his career, perhaps rivaling that of pitcher-turned-outfielder Rick Ankiel.