OAKLAND -- The ninth inning will likely go on without Jim Johnson on Thursday. But not because the A's feel he doesn't belong there anymore.
They couldn't disagree more, in fact. Johnson will be held out of action for a day only because he needed 29 pitches to get through his Wednesday outing, which resulted in his second loss in as many appearances for his new team.
But his manager and teammates are eager to see him back in a save situation.
"You know, closers are going to blow two, three in a row," said Nick Punto. "That's part of the job. It's just magnified when it's the first series of the season. This is an established, really good closer. We all know that he's going to be dominant and be Jim Johnson the closer that he is. You just don't ever want to see someone have to deal with that right out of the shoot."
The veteran Punto had a good talk with Johnson Wednesday night, as did manager Bob Melvin.
"Look," said Melvin, "he's an accountable guy, and everything gets real magnified when you're in the closer's role, because when you have a bad day the team loses. He's with a new team, and it's happened the first couple times he's been out there. He's looking forward to getting out there and going in the opposite direction. It's just unfortunate he's gotten off to a slow start."
Johnson, who spent eight years in Baltimore before heading west this offseason in a trade that sent Jemile Weeks to the Orioles, said Thursday he's not surprised by the boos being showered by his new fan base. He heard them at Camden Yards a lot last year, too, when he blew nine saves. But he also locked down 50 of them, after compiling 51 the year before.
The first one in an A's uniform may now be the most crucial for Johnson, who looked at video of his outing and believes his early woes are stemming from location issues, which plagued him at times last year.
When Johnson's in trouble, he's typically falling behind hitters and also leaving pitches belt-high, rather than keeping his signature sinker down and drawing grounders. He's already begun the process of making an adjustment.
"Obviously this isn't the way I wanted to start, but guys here are right here with me already, and they know I work at it," he said. "I learned a long time ago you can't get too high, you can't get too low, so I'll be fine. I told Bob, I'm frustrated because I care and I want to do well and I feel like I gave everything out there, and then you don't get your results. But I'm not discouraged. There's a difference."