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Cubs Wed Jun 29 2011

Fourth Outfielder Shines as Cubs Bright Spot

Thumbnail image for cubs.gifThe Cubs have been pretty dismal this season. After losing both ends of a doubleheader Tuesday against San Francisco, they have eight losses in 11 games and a 32-48 record, the second-worst in baseball.

But let's talk about one of the bright spots: Fourth outfielder Reed Johnson has been stellar since returning to the North Side after a year with the Dodgers.

Starting 20 of Chicago's 80 games this season, the nine-year veteran has a .337 average with a .382 on-base percentage, four home runs and 22 RBIs.

It would be interesting to see if Johnson was able to keep up this pace if he was playing every day. (He has 110 plate appearances; the team's healthiest regulars have 300 or more.) The opportunity for more playing time presented itself after Marlon Byrd got hit in the face with a pitch five weeks ago, but Johnson also has been banged up this season.

Johnson's per-game production, combined with his hard-nosed defense, might be all-star worthy if he played every day, but it's his attitude and work ethic that really stand out. Numbers aside, he plays the game the right way and gives it 100 percent every time out there.

This play against the Yankees two weeks ago is a prime example of the type of player he is:

One of the top things that impresses me about Johnson is you never hear him lobby publicly for more playing time. He just makes the most of his opportunities when they arrive. The younger guys on this team can benefit from having a guy like him around.

The primary thing that has held Johnson back in his career is injuries, but when he is healthy he plays the game at high level and at 34, is undoubtedly one of the hardest workers in the game today. The Cubs would be in far better shape if they had 25 guys playing the game like him.

 
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