You probably didn’t recognize Jim Johnson last night, since he wasn’t pitching in a save situation and he wasn’t churning out another drama-free inning.
(OK, the same thing happened Friday night in the wild card game, though with much better results. Just work with me here.)
It was like an imposter stole Johnson’s No. 43 jersey and his entrance music. But that was Darren O’Day in the seventh. I’d know his delivery anywhere, and his knack for escaping jams that have been dumped at his feet.
O’Day stranded two more runners after replacing Troy Patton. Derek Jeter laid down a sacrifice bunt with two strikes, Ichiro Suzuki grounded into a 4-2 out at the plate and Alex Rodriguez struck out.
O’Day allowed only six of 43 inherited runners to score in the regular season, the third-best success rate in the American League. He’s been money.
So, how exactly did O’Day get here? Andy MacPhail was gone and Dan Duquette hadn’t been hired. He was a ‘tweener.
Let’s just say it was a group effort, one that included manager Buck Showalter, former executive Matt Klentak, assistant director of major league operations Ned Rice and director of baseball administration Tripp Norton. And probably one of the security guards and the nice woman who serves food in the press lounge.
Klentak later took a job in the Angels’ front office. O’Day ended up in the playoffs and he didn’t, which nobody would have predicted over the winter.
“Buck jokes with me about how that was his best move as the GM,” said O’Day, who won a career-high seven games and posted a 2.28 ERA in 69 games. “It was his only move, I guess. Claiming me.”
The Rangers had placed O’Day on outright waivers. He was arbitration eligible and Duquette could have non-tendered him after being hired.
“The way the waiver system works, I didn’t really have a choice, but even if I had a choice, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else,” O’Day said. “For them to claim me like that shows that they have a lot of faith in me and they respect what I had done before. I saw it as a good opportunity to pitch and it’s worked out pretty well.”
O’Day and Showalter didn’t cross paths in Texas, but it still felt like they had a bond.
“I had never met Buck, but he called me the day that they claimed me,” O’Day recalled. “I was putting together a closet for my wife (Elizabeth Prann) and I had to stop in the middle of it. It was like one of those portable closets. She works for FOX News and they give her too many clothes for her to wear on camera. I just remember that I was working on something when he called. It was awesome.”
Sort of like the way O’Day has pitched. He can put together a closet and one heck of a season.