("Thanks for the at-bats, guy." Courtesy of Getty Images)
When the offseason ended and the Yankee roster started to take shape over ST, it looked like Kelly Johnson was going to be an important piece. He could play a lot of positions, he could play the infield ones well, he had left-handed power. He was like Joe's "Draw 4" Wild card in Uno that he could use at any time in any situation. Then Yangervis Solarte came out hitting like a maniac and Brian Roberts' switch-hitting body managed to stay healthy enough to play and suddenly KJ was the odd man out, getting his only playing time when Teix was hurt and he had to play out of position at first.
Now Solarte is really slumping at the plate, Roberts' body is banged up, and Johnson finds himself back in his regular position getting regular playing time. He's been a fixture in the bottom of the batting the last few games and could finally be starting to settle into the role he should have been playing all along.
Johnson has started each of the Yankees' last 4 games at third base. He's gone 5-11 with 2 doubles, 2 R scored, and 3 BB in those 4 games. The power has been there, the patience has been there, and his OPS has risen 47 points while his batting average has gone up 19. Those big boosts show how little run Johnson has been getting this year and how much he's capable of contributing when he is a regular part of the lineup. Yeah he's going to strike out and he's not going to hit for a great average, but he's going to make up for it with XBH, some walks, and as a piece of a better team infield defense than with Roberts and Solarte at second and third.
Going back a little farther than just the last handful of games, Johnson has been making some noise and showing he's deserving of the increase in PT he's received. He's got 4 multi-hit games in his last 10 dating back to late May, and the fact that he hasn't driven in many runs with those hits is a testament to what's been hitting around him in the order. There's not a lot of production coming from the 5-9 spots in the batting order right now. Only makes sense to get another power bat in that mix.
I've been leading the "Kelly Johnson should be getting more playing time" charge for a while now, and it's good to see Joe starting to come around on the idea. The only thing he really had working against him earlier in the season was the fact that he coldn't hit from both sides of the plate, but that novelty is starting to wear off. Solarte has cooled down and Roberts, healthy or not, has proven to be the personification of baseball mediocrity. Johnson should keep getting a spot in the lineup every day at third or second base while he's hitting, and as long as he keeps doing something productive with his at-bats he shouldn't lose that spot.