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Johnson gets fresh start with trade to Padres

Johnson gets fresh start with trade to Padres

SEATTLE -- Catcher Rob Johnson, traded by the Mariners to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday for a player to be named later or cash considerations, says he's finally 100 percent healthy and ready for a fresh start.

Johnson, 28, was the Mariners' Opening Day catcher and started 57 games before being optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on Aug. 3. After coming back from a pair of offseason hip surgeries, he hit just .191 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in 178 at-bats and had an American League-high nine passed balls.

Johnson told MLB.com he's back to full strength for the first time in several years after having surgery on both labrums in his hips as well as undergoing a wrist surgery prior to his difficult 2010 season.

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Johnson was designated for assignment on Dec. 13, thus the Mariners had 10 days to release, trade or designate him to the Minor Leagues.

"I'm pumped," he said. "Anytime you get designated, you're a little bit nervous. You don't have control over anything. But this is a really good situation for me and my family. I feel blessed."

The native of Butte, Mont., said he's grateful for his time in Seattle, but he's eager to put last season's struggles in the rear-view mirror.

"I really worked this offseason on putting a lot of it behind me," he said. "Obviously for Seattle to draft me and be my first team to play for, it was cool because it's close to Montana. I met a lot of really good people along the way in and throughout the organization, but I'm excited also to turn a new page in my life and see where this leads my family and my career.

"As far as last year goes, yeah, it was no doubt frustrating. I came off surgeries and wasn't as good as I'd like to think I was and struggled throughout the year. That's really it. I'm putting that behind me and working my tail off weight-lifting and going to a new stretching guy and working on a new diet. I'm 100 percent now and I can say that without hesitation."

Johnson said he probably did push to come back too soon last year, but wouldn't second guess that decision.

"I think that's part of the mind of a baseball player and also the mind of myself," he said. "If I can go out there and give it 100 percent, in my mind I have to think I can help the team. With that said, I don't think I was because I couldn't move the way I want to move.

"But that's the way it goes. I came off the surgeries, was asked to play, wanted to play and believed I could play. That's where it ended up. They [manager Don Wakamatsu and general manager Jack Zduriencik] had confidence, so I went out and gave everything I had at every moment. I didn't try to favor it. The end results were the end results. Now I get to turn the page and start new and look forward."

Johnson said he doesn't know a lot about the catching situation in San Diego, where the Padres are looking for a backup to Nick Hundley, but is thrilled to still be going to Spring Training in Peoria, Ariz., where he lives just 10 minutes from the complex shared by the Mariners and Padres.

"I'll just have to park in a different lot," Johnson said with a chuckle.

Johnson posted a career .200 average with five home runs and 42 RBIs in 470 at-bats over parts of four seasons in Seattle.

He was designated for assignment after the Mariners came to an agreement with free-agent catcher Miguel Olivo.

The Mariners head into 2011 with Olivo and Adam Moore on board and also signed former Cleveland Indians catcher Chris Gimenez to a Minor League contract last week with an invitation to Spring Training.

Olivo has yet to officially sign, but is flying to Seattle from the Dominican Republic this week and his two-year, $7 million agreement will be finalized once he passes his physical exam.

Josh Bard, Guillermo Quiroz and Eliezer Alfonzo all caught games for the Mariners last year in addition to Moore and Johnson, but those three are currently unsigned free agents eligible to sign with any Major League team, including Seattle.

Moore started 58 games behind the plate last season, while Johnson started 57 games, Bard 35, Alfonzo 10 and Quiroz two. The five catchers combined to hit .201 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs. The Mariners' combined catchers batting average, as well as on-base percentage [.263], slugging percentage [.303] and OPS [.566] were all the lowest in the American League.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohns1 as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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