LAKELAND, Fla. – Micah Johnson’s bid for a bench job on the Braves’ opening-day roster might have ended with a sprained wrist Tuesday.
The Braves were doing more tests Wednesday to determine the severity of the injury to Johnson’s left wrist, his glove hand, which was bent backward severely when he made a diving catch near the left-field line in Tuesday’s game against the Phillies. He ran off the field after the inning-ending play and X-rays Tuesday showed no broken bones, but Johnson was to have more tests Wednesday to determine the extent of tissue damage.
Depending on the degree of the sprain, Johnson, 26, could miss significant time. Even if it’s a mild injury, there are only two weeks left in spring training, and he was still in the process of getting comfortable playing the outfield, after playing almost exclusively at second base in the minor leagues and in parts of two major league seasons with the White Sox and Dodgers.
While Johnson is on the 40-man roster, he still was considered a long-shot candidate for the opening-day roster when spring training began. He’s had a pretty good spring, batting .222 (8-for-36) with a triple and a home run. But he also has 11 strikeouts with only two walks, and has been caught in both of his stolen-base attempts.
Non-roster invitee Emilio Bonifacio was believed to be ahead of Johnson in the competition for the final bench spot if the Braves go with eight relievers and a four-man bench, rather than seven relievers and five bench players. Bonifacio, 31, has more versatility and can play all three outfield positions, which is no small matter considering Jace Peterson and Chase d’Arnaud have only limited outfield experience.
The Braves have an opening on their 40-man roster and could trade for another bench player before opening day. If they don’t make a move and go with a four-man bench, it would most likely be comprised of Peterson, d’Arnaud, catcher Kurt Suzuki and Bonifacio.