02/22/12 1:45 PM EST
Johnson gets crack at hitting in No. 2 slot
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
Johnson spent the majority of his time with the Blue Jays last year hitting in the bottom half of the order. That is expected to change this season as Toronto manager John Farrell indicated early in camp that he'd ideally move the veteran infielder up in the lineup.
"The hope is that Kelly Johnson takes that spot and runs with it," Farrell said. "We're still going to try to alternate through the lineup as best we can. If there are matchups that will dictate otherwise then we'll make that adjustment. Yunel [Escobar] will lead off, but I'd like to see Kelly in that two-hole."
Johnson came over to the Blue Jays last August in a trade with Arizona for second baseman Aaron Hill and infielder John McDonald. Johnson hit a combined .222 with 21 homers and 58 RBIs in 2011 while posting 55 extra-base hits in 545 at-bats.
The somewhat inconsistent season led to Johnson hitting in all nine positions in the batting order between his time in Arizona and Toronto. Despite the low batting average, Johnson still managed to post a .304 on-base percentage and has a .343 mark for his career, which is what caught the attention of Farrell.
Toronto's manager is looking for improved production out of the two-hole to help set the table for slugger Jose Bautista and Adam Lind. The Blue Jays managed to post just a .311 on-base percentage out of that spot in 2011.
"He's had years where he has been very good at getting on base," Farrell said. "To me, that's the most important thing. Guys that can get on base at a higher rate in front of Bautista, Lind, in front of [Brett] Lawrie, [Edwin] Encarnacion that's where we're looking to build it from."
Vizquel looking to stick with Blue Jays
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Veteran infielder Omar Vizquel arrived at the Blue Jays' Spring Training facility on Wednesday morning to start preparing for his attempt to crack the club's big league roster.
Vizquel signed a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training during the offseason. He will compete against Mike McCoy and Luis Valbuena for the utility infielder spot on Toronto's 25-man roster.
The 23-year veteran has the ability to play all four infield positions and could fill a similar role to the one John McDonald was responsible for in 2011.
"We also look at what Omar can bring to us," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "His veteran leadership, his mentoring ability. But I don't want to play on that too heavily, because he's still a player with a lot of talent."
One of the question marks surrounding Vizquel is his ability to play shortstop. The 44-year-old is one of the greatest defensive shortstops to ever play the game but in recent years his range and arm strength has been somewhat diminished.
Farrell dismissed any of those concerns by saying Brett Lawrie's abilities at third base would overcome any shortcomings on Vizquel's end if he was needed at short.
"The one thing that you look at over time -- and you read the reports and get evaluations of other people -- he has had a long career as a shortstop," Farrell said.
"Whether the arm strength is as good as it was a few years ago, might not exactly be the case, but you can also look at an alignment with Lawrie at third, who has tremendous range that can cover up the six-hole a little bit more than the average third baseman. That takes away from some of the concern that might be there with the throw coming out of the hole at shortstop."