SAN FRANCISCO -- The final afternoon of the A's exhibition season -- a 7-2 win over the Giants at AT&T Park -- proved to be a bit of an odd one for Dan Johnson.

He was in the starting lineup.

Not that this spring hasn't brought other such instances. But the onset of the regular season last week in Japan brought with it a harsh reality, one that will be reinforced Tuesday when the A's resume their campaign against the Boston Red Sox at McAfee Coliseum.

Simply put, Johnson is a man without a position.

"Of course I'm not happy about it, because I want to be an everyday guy, and you've got to get as many everyday repetitions as you can get to be successful," Johnson said Sunday. "But ... this game doesn't owe you anything."

That fact slaps Johnson in the face each day.

He played an A's-high 97 games at first base last season, but Daric Barton now occupies that spot. And to judge by the spring, Mike Sweeney likely will back him up more times than not. Johnson also could shift to designated hitter. But Jack Cust is already entrenched there, and Sweeney seems to be the alternative to Cust, as well.

"You do the best you can and try to win each game," A's manager Bob Geren said of the tricky situation he must oversee. "Situations can change so quickly that sometimes it's not smart to look that far ahead."

Still, Johnson could be forgiven for doing that exact thing.


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The A's must create a roster spot for starting pitcher Chad Gaudin on April 12, and barring any injuries -- a huge assumption, to be sure -- it seems Johnson could be the odd man out. He would have to clear waivers to be sent down to the minors, and with most major-league rosters set, that is more likely once the regular season starts than it is now.

But it's not a certainty, and Johnson acknowledged he would welcome a change.

"If the situation changes, that's great," he said. "But that's not my duty. That's the front office's duty, and my job is to get that game-face on everyday, and be ready whenever they need me."

What Johnson must do when he does play is show that his performance isn't tied to a yo-yo. A year ago, he hit .327 in his first 29 games, then .205 the rest of the way. In 2006, he started the season in a 1-for-37 funk, then hit .291 from June to July, including one 10-game stretch in which he hit .447. He's also a .293 hitter in day games, and a .222 hitter at night.

He didn't help his standing this spring, either, going just 9-for-52 (.173). His third-inning single against Giants starter Kevin Correia ended an 0-for-10 slump.

"That's the thing I'm really battling," he said. "It's one of those things ... that you need to have. You have to be consistent."

Contact Rick Hurd at rhurd@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • NEXT GAME: Tuesday, vs. Red Sox, 7:05 p.m.