SEATTLE -- Could Jim Johnson make a return to Baltimore?
"That's completely in Oakland's hands now," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Johnson, who was designated for assignment by the A's on Thursday afternoon. "They have nine or 10 days to trade him, and I'm sure there will be some people that have interest in Jimmy. See what it takes. I'm sure that will play out most of the time unless [A's general manager] Billy [Beane] gets a deal he likes."
If they don't find a suitable deal, the A's could also place the struggling Johnson on waivers or release him during that 10-day time frame. Relieved of his ninth-inning duties just two weeks into the season, Johnson has a Major League-worst 6.92 ERA -- along with a $10 million salary -- and should clear waivers easily, which would likely result in his release. He has enough service time to decline a Minor League assignment, which could make him a free agent. And the O's were heavily rumored recently to have interest in a Johnson reunion, engaging in talks with the A's while the right-hander was still on their roster.
Showalter, who has kept in contact with Johnson this season, said he considers him a friend and it was tough to witness Johnson's struggles from afar.
"It was painful to watch because we all think so much of Jimmy as a person," Showalter said of Johnson, who saved 101 games for Baltimore in the previous two seasons. "He did some good things for us."
Johnson was an All-Star for the O's in 2012 and a huge part of the organization making the playoffs that year. Showalter believes he can still turn things around despite the disappointing start to 2014.
"It's such a snowball, at this level, at any sports. Things snowball," he said. "You are never quite as good as periods are and you are never as bad as periods are. He will end up in a good place and it will work out. He's got too much ability."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.