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Detroit Tigers Taking Low Risk in Signing Reliever Jim Johnson to Minor League Contract

August 6th, 2014 at 10:25 AM
By Max DeMara

Searching anywhere and everywhere for some form of additional bullpen help, the Detroit Tigers made another move on Tuesday afternoon to perhaps bolster their late inning pitching.

The risk of this particular move, however, figures to be extremely low. Detroit reportedly signed Jim Johnson, former closer for the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics to a minor league contract. After throwing with Jeff Jones in New York, Johnson will report to Toledo and begin working with the Mud Hens.

"We were looking for help there," Dave Dombrowski told reporters. "Our scouts have seen him and he's continued to show arm strength this year and good stuff. His location was not up to par, but we saw some things that we liked."

Once considered one of the better closers in the game, frustration has found Johnson fast. He posted 51 and 50 saves with the Orioles in 2012 and 2013 with sub-3.00 ERA's, but then signed with Oakland in the offseason. That's when the troubles began. Johnson was demoted from the closer role while collecting a 7.14 ERA. He struggled setting up for Sean Doolittle, as well.

Worse, Johnson had given up five home runs already in 2014, compared to just eight total between 2012 and 2013. His location has been erratic, leading to his dismissal by the Athletics. Johnson could have chose to sign with Baltimore again, who was reportedly eyeing him as well, but inked his deal with the Tigers instead.

The signing is an intriguing move for the Tigers, who are trying to get all hands on deck as far as bullpen help for the stretch run. If Jones and company can find Johnson's mechanical flaw before September, it's possible the former closer could help play a significant role for the Tigers during the final two months. Detroit tried a similar flier on injured hurler Joel Hanrahan, but it's likely he won't pitch an inning this season.

For now, though, don't expect Johnson to make an immediate impact either. Dombrowski admitted the process will be slow, and doesn't yet know how Johnson will fit in. The hope is that he can help out the bullpen eventually.

Considering the success Johnson has enjoyed in the recent future, the move certainly has the ability to turn into a quiet steal in time.

Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.

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