Source: Dodgers, Johnson close

Updated: January 31, 2010, 6:37 PM ET
By Tony Jackson | ESPNLosAngeles.com

The Dodgers are close to an agreement on a one-year contract with free-agent outfielder Reed Johnson, a source close to the club confirmed on Sunday. Johnson would become the primary backup outfielder behind starters Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.

Johnson, 33, a Riverside native and Temecula Valley High graduate, will be required to pass a physical examination before the deal becomes official. He missed two months while with the Chicago Cubs last season after breaking a bone when he fouled a ball off his foot against Houston's Mike Hampton on July 29, but Johnson returned for the final two weeks of the season.

Johnson hit .255 last season, with four homers and 22 RBIs. He is a career .282 hitter in seven big-league seasons and was primarily a backup the past two years with the Cubs.

Johnson has appeared in more than 100 games in his career at each of the three outfield spots, a fact that will come in handy in an outfield where he might be the only backup.

Johnson was one of four free agents the Dodgers were considering for the backup spot -- the others were Garret Anderson, Brian Giles and Gabe Gross -- and he is the only one of the four who is a right-handed hitter. The Dodgers are still without a left-handed pinch hitter, a fact that virtually assures veteran Doug Mientkiewicz, who is coming to spring-training on a minor league contract, will make the team.

Mientkiewicz is a corner infielder, and with the Dodgers already having added Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll as utility men, there likely won't be room for another outfielder on the Opening Day roster. If the Dodgers decide to go with an 11-man pitching staff, opening up a spot for a fifth outfielder, that spot likely would go to either Jason Repko or Xavier Paul. But if recent history is any indication, the club figures to go with 12 pitchers for most of the season.

Besides pinch hitting and going in as a late-inning defensive replacement, Johnson probably will start at least once a week. Ramirez will turn 38 in May and figures to need frequent days off. The left-handed-hitting Ethier probably will sit against certain left-handed pitchers. And Kemp, the center fielder, will need occasional days off as well.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Tony Jackson

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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