Cubs find new outfielder



MESA, Ariz. – The Chicago Cubs agreed on a $1.3 million, one-year contract with Reed Johnson on Tuesday, adding depth and a right-handed bat to their outfield.

A career .281 hitter in parts of five seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, Johnson was released Sunday after missing more than three months last year because of a lower back injury.

He had surgery last April to fix a herniated disc and hit .236 – a sharp drop from his .319 average in 2006 – but the Cubs believe he fills a hole.

“We’ve been working on guys for the outfield for a while, and all of a sudden, probably the best fit in a lot of ways kind of just fell into our lap,” general manager Jim Hendry said. “We’ve always liked him. We’ve tried to acquire him a few times the last four or five years from Toronto. He’s really a hard-nosed player. He’s an extremely good hitter against left-handed pitching.”

Johnson is a career .308 hitter against lefties, and batted .325 against them last year.

With the Cubs, he’ll help out in center field and could fill in for Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano in right and left. He was to start in center field against San Francisco in Scottsdale on Tuesday.

“We’re happy to have him, he’s going to get playing time,” manager Lou Piniella said. “There’s going to be some playing time for him. I’ve seen him play. He’s a hard-nosed kid that likes to play. He’s had a nice major league career.”

Besides signing Johnson, the Cubs optioned outfielders Sam Fuld and Eric Patterson to Triple-A Iowa. Left-handed pitcher Les Walrond and infielders Micah Hoffpauir and Casey McGehee were reassigned to the minor league camp.

Also, the Cubs placed Angel Guzman on the 60-day disabled list because of a right elbow injury, and they expect reliever Scott Eyre to open the season on the 15-day DL because of a bone spur in his left elbow.