Yankees start Johnson at first base

Yankees start Johnson at first base

OAKLAND -- Nick Johnson understood perfectly why the Yankees were bringing him in, looking at his high on-base percentage and believing that it would make for a productive fit in the designated hitter role.

But Johnson never abandoned his first baseman's glove, figuring that Mark Teixeira certainly wasn't about to play all 162 games. For the first time this year, Johnson got to dust it off in a game situation Thursday, playing his first defensive innings of the season.

"You have to be ready," Johnson said. "That's all I can do, take ground balls and make my throws to second. When it's game time, you catch the ball and do what I've always done."

The DH role is new for Johnson, who entered play Thursday batting .136 with one home run and five RBIs in 15 games -- but with a team-leading 18 walks and a .406 on-base percentage.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi wanted to give Teixeira a half-day off (he remained in the lineup at DH), but it might help Johnson to get on the field and back into what has been his more normal routine during his big league career.

"He lined out a lot, and if those are base hits, you don't know where he is right now," Girardi said. "It's probably extremely easy to be a DH when you're going well, but when you're not, you probably think about it more."

Johnson downplayed the effect of not playing defense, saying that he is figuring out how to keep himself sharp for his four or five at-bats each game. He still loves taking infield practice, but is fine with the idea of DHing the rest of the season.

"My swing hasn't been too good, but that's not because I haven't been out there running around," Johnson said. "I'm in a good routine, but I'm just not getting it done. If you don't have your swing, you don't have your swing, but I feel good."