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Johnson's versatility earns him spot with Tribe

Johnson's versatility earns him spot with Tribe play video for Johnson's versatility earns him spot with Tribe

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When Elliot Johnson first arrived in camp this spring, his goal was to prove to the Indians that they could trust him at virtually any position. Over the past month, the versatile utility man has done preciely that for Cleveland.

On Saturday morning, Johnson's performance earned him a spot on the Opening Day roster.

"I kind of come back to one of the things he said to you guys," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He wanted to earn trust at every position. He really did that. It's easy when guys are getting hits to talk about them, because they're on base and they're doing things. He complements our roster very well.

"We have he and [Mike] Aviles that we're really comfortable moving all over the field. In Elliot's case, he's a guy that can pinch-run. He's a switch-hitter. He can play all the positions and play them well. That makes your 25-man roster a little bit bigger."

The 30-year-old Johnson, who had his contract purchased by the Indians on Saturday and is on the 40-man roster, has bounced all around the infield and outfield this spring for the Tribe. Heading into Saturday's game, he was also hitting at a .350 clip with six extra-base hits and eight RBIs in 15 Cactus League games.

Francona and general manager Chris Antonetti delivered the good news to Johnson on Saturday morning.

"It was great. It was the goal all along, to try to make the team," Johnson said. "I felt like I played and did as much as I could possibly do to help myself out and be on the team. Like they said all along, they were going to choose the team and pick the team that complented each other best.

"If it didn't work out, even though I've had a good spring, then I'd understand. But I really couldn't have done much more from a playing standpoint this spring than I have."

Johnson, Aviles and Ryan Raburn -- a trio that can handle every infield and outfield position between them -- will open the season on Cleveland's versatile bench. With Jason Giambi (broken rib) and Michael Bourn (left hamstring) both possibly out for Opening Day, non-roster outfielder Nyjer Morgan is also in the running for a job.

Francona and Antonetti also met with Morgan on Saturday, but let the outfielder know that the team has yet to make a decision about his status for the roster.

"Nyjer's had a great camp," Francona said. "It's funny, because I think his concern was the perception of him, that he can be disrespectful. That's kind of how he said it. I would say he's been anything but that. He's been a model citizen, enthusiastic, polite.

"There's nothing he has done that we haven't enjoyed, but we also told him that we don't know the makeup of our team yet, and that we will try to tell him when we know."

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.

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