Indians sign versatile Johnson to Minor League deal

Indians sign versatile Johnson to Minor League deal

CLEVELAND -- The Indians will have a wide open competition for the final spot on their bench this spring, and the club has added another candidate to the mix.

On Monday, Cleveland signed versatile infielder Elliot Johnson to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to attend Spring Training with the Tribe. With Johnson in the fold, Cleveland now has 22 non-roster invitees in hand.

Given the current roster alignment -- sans a true backup catcher on the bench -- the Indians have some flexibility with how they can approach their reserves. Catchers Yan Gomes and Carlos Santana are expected to be lineup regulars, with Santana serving as a corner infielder or designated hitter on days he is not behind the plate.

Utility men Ryan Raburn and Mike Aviles project to be on the Opening Day roster, along with veteran Jason Giambi, who is currently a non-roster player. The final bench spot appears to be up for grabs, with a growing list of players in the running.

Cleveland has a trio of infield options in utility man Jose Ramirez, third baseman David Adams and first baseman David Cooper. Backup outfield possibilities include Jeff Francoeur, Nyger Morgan and Matt Carson. An assortment of other players will also be in camp for Cleveland this spring.

Like Raburn and Aviles, the 29-year-old Johnson has the ability to play both the infield and outfield.

Last season, Johnson manned five different positions (second base, shortstop, third base and the corner-outfield spots) and he has appeared at seven positions (everywhere but pitcher and catcher) over the course of his four years in the Majors.

In his big league career, the switch-hitting Johnson has posted a .218/.273/.319 slash line over 311 games between stints with the Rays, Royals and Braves. Johnson was traded to Kansas City last offseason with right-hander James Shields in the deal that sent Wil Myers to Tampa Bay. Atlanta later claimed the infielder off waivers from the Royals in late August.

Johnson hit just .209 with a .538 OPS in 111 games last year, but he took over for Dan Uggla as the Braves' regular second baseman in September, posting a .277 average and a .712 OPS over the season's final month. Johnson remained in that role in the playoffs, but he went just 1-for-14 in Atlanta's loss to the Dodgers in the National League Division Series.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.