Jays release Johnson, paving way for Shannon Stewart
The Toronto Blue Jays have parted ways with the present to bring in a piece of the past.
Former Jay Shannon Stewart appears to have won the job as Toronto's starting left-fielder after the club released Reed Johnson on Sunday morning prior to their afternoon exhibition game against Philadelphia in Dunedin, Fla.
Johnson, 31, who had spent his entire five-year major-league career with the Jays, was hitting .289 with three doubles and three RBIs in the pre-season.
Johnson enjoyed a breakout season in 2006 when he batted a career-high .319. A herniated disk in his back cut short his 2007 season, limiting the outfielder to 79 games and dropping his output at the plate.
"I don't have any hard feelings," Johnson told the Associated Press. "I don't have much of a choice right now except to move on. It's really all I can say."
Johnson is a .281 hitter with 42 homers and 234 RBIs in five seasons with the Blue Jays.
Stewart, meanwhile, rejoins the club that chose him 19th overall in the June 1992 draft.
The once speedy Stewart, who has been hampered by various leg injuries over the past few seasons, spent the better part of nine seasons with the Jays before being traded to the Minnesota Twins in July 2003.
Stewart, who turned 34 on Monday, was expecting to re-sign with the Oakland Athletics until Toronto offered him a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. He's hitting .226 this spring since signing the deal on Feb. 24.
Stewart hit .290 last season with 12 home runs, 48 runs batted in, 79 runs scored and 11 stolen bases in 146 games with Oakland.
Earlier this week, Stewart told reporters in Dunedin he was thrilled to be back with the Jays.
"This is where it all started for me," the 13-year veteran said. "My best memories playing in the big leagues have been with Toronto."
Stewart is a career .298 hitter with 566 RBIs, 193 stolen bases and an on-base percentage of .362.