Baseball

Johnson, Pads finalize $8M, 1-year contract

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Josh Johnson was looking for a team close to his Las Vegas home, and the San Diego Padres were looking for a potential top-of-the rotation pitcher.

The sides quickly agreed on an $8 million, one-year contract that was finalized on Wednesday. The Padres, coming off a second straight finish of 76-86, hope they're getting the Johnson who was an All-Star with Miami in 2009 and 2010 and not the one slowed by triceps and forearm injuries last year while with Toronto.

General manager Josh Byrnes said the Padres decided that if they could find a starter who had the chance to a difference-maker, they were going to pursue him. "Here's a guy who led the league in ERA who has been a dominant pitcher," Byrnes said. "We know there's risk in any signing but we're very excited about the upside, what he can bring and now what our rotation can do to deliver us toward our goal. We want to be an October team. We really feel like the evolution of our starting pitching and bringing in Josh, we've taken a big step in that direction over the last 12 months."

The Padres have had losing records in four of the last five seasons and have missed the playoffs seven straight seasons. Johnson, who had bone spurs removed from his right elbow on Oct. 1, was 2-8 with a 6.20 ERA 16 appearances this season. In addition to his base salary, Johnson would earn a $1.25 million bonus for making 26 starts.

He said the top teams on his list were the Giants and Padres, and that he and his agent jumped at the first good offer. "Every time you come in here you want to stay here," Johnson said. "The park's great, the city's great, so those two things, that's pretty much what you want. It's a great park to pitch in. That and the staff, and then the team, it's a perfect fit."

While not saying who is going to be the No. 1 starter, manager Bud Black said he envisions Johnson fitting in at the top of the order along with Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. "He's done it in the past," Black said. "Obviously he's had some great performances."

Add in Ian Kennedy and Eric Stults, and "We have the makings of a very solid rotation," Black said. The Padres also expect to get young pitchers Joe Wieland and Cory Luebke back from reconstructive elbow surgery. Casey Kelly also is recovering from elbow surgery.

Johnson led the NL with a 2.30 ERA in 2010. He has a career record of 58-45 with a 3.40 ERA. "I've seen Josh from the other side, when he was with Toronto, when he was with Florida," Black said. "This guy, potentially for us, brings a lot to the table. We're really, really pumped to have Josh here."

The Padres expect Johnson to be ready to go by spring training. "I was pretty close last year, just not healthy," Johnson said. "It was tough trying to throw through it and all of a sudden I'm getting these weird pains all the way up my triceps and my forearm's getting tight because of everything going on with my elbow. Hopefully that took care of everything."

NOTES: The Padres will make a corresponding move on the 40-man roster when Johnson's signing is confirmed by MLB. ... Byrnes said Luebke threw to college players at San Diego State on Saturday and did fine.

Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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