In the off-season, the Padres took a gamble on right-handed pitcher Josh Johnson, a former league ERA champion who has missed nearly four full seasons with a variety of injuries.
Johnson had a miserable year in Toronto, giving up more than six runs a game in 16 starts with a couple of disabled list trips sprinkled in. He had surgery to remove bone chips in his pitching elbow in October, then signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Padres.
It was the kind of signing the Padres usually don't make. Big money for a marquis name, even with a spotty health report, is typically not their style. But, Johnson made it really easy for them. He wanted to come to the West coast to be closer to his home in Las Vegas. So he gave his agent a very short list of teams he'd like to play for.
On it were the Padres, Giants and Dodgers.
"Every time you play the Padres, you always hear them in the dugout, they're enjoying it, they're having fun," said Johnson, who spent eight years with the Marlins and faced the Padres eight times. "A let-loose atmosphere is always good. And then, Darren Balsley and Buddy Black have been on the top of my list."
Working with two of the most-respected pitching teachers in the game, inside Petco Park, is something just about every pitcher in the game would embrace. Perhaps, with the signing of Johnson, the Padres will start to legitimately try and lure them to San Diego.