Rays’ Rearview Mirror: Elliot Johnson’s Homecoming

By Jenna West

With the Kansas City Royals playing the Rays at Tropicana Field last weekend, former Rays pitcher James Shields received much attention from Rays fans and the media. A tribute video for Shields played on the Jumbotron, and he discussed how upset he was about not getting to pitch at the Trop. While getting to see Shields on the mound would have been great, fans saw a former Rays position player have a solid impact on the Royals’ ability to win three games out of the four game series: Elliot Johnson.

Johnson’s most stunning performance came in the first game, as he went 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs, including a three-run homer. The former Rays’ infielder hit that home run during a powerful sixth inning when the Royals scored eight runs off of Jeremy Hellickson.

During game two, against Matt Moore, Johnson struck with an RBI triple in the fifth inning and was 2-for-4 with a stolen base for the night. Johnson’s hot bat calmed down in games three and four, as he was 1-for-4 in both games. Johnson had five strikeouts in the series.

Before the series at the Trop began, Johnson was hitting just .220, but after those four games his average increased to .252. While that’s still similar to the numbers Rays fans saw Johnson put up in his 11 years with the organization, it seems that sometimes all it takes is a homecoming to spark one’s bat.

“It’s hard to describe the first time back,” Johnson told Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times after Thursday night’s game. “I wish everyone would get a chance to understand what it’s like. It’s hard to put into words.”

It was good to see Johnson, Shields, and Wade Davis, who pitched in the third game of the series, back at Tropicana Field, where their careers began. Oddly enough, after the final game against the Royals ended on Sunday, the Rays announced they were calling up top prospect Wil Myers, who was acquired in the Shields trade that also sent Johnson and Davis to the Royals. As soon as the Rays and their fans took a walk down memory lane with former teammates, a new era began for the organization with Myers’ debut.