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New infielder Chris Johnson hopes to re-energize his career with Orioles

Chris Johnson, an invitee at the Orioles' spring training, talks about working out around his father, Ron Johnson. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun video)

SARASOTA, FLA. — It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that veteran infielder Chris Johnson signed with the Orioles for the opportunity to be in the same organization with his father, but he's really here for the preseason playing time.

The O's have two starting infielders set to play in the World Baseball Classic, which means he'll likely show up in a lot of exhibition lineups filling in for Manny Machado at third base.

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"I think that was one of the things I liked about coming here,'' said Johnson, who reported to the Ed Smith Stadium spring training complex on Thursday. "There are some guys in the infield who are going to be going and playing and I'll be able to get in there in spring training and show what I can do. And that's all I can ask is for an opportunity."

He will be auditioning for a utility role at the major league level this spring, but likely will open the regular season playing for his father -- Ron Johnson -- at Triple-A Norfolk. He said he's not sure what that would be like, since he never got much chance to  play in front of his baseball lifer dad.

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"Weird, I'm sure,'' he said. "It's weird even being in this locker room right now. He was here yesterday and it's just strange running into him, and him coming into the cage and stuff like that. But I'm sure we'll get past that weirdness and move on. It should be fun."

Johnson, who played 136 games or more from 2012-2014 for the Astros, Diamondbacks and Braves, struggled in a reserve role the past two seasons with the Indians and Marlins but thinks he has figured out why.

"Probably a couple different things,'' he said. "Just tried to figure out that bench role and being in there and out of there sometimes. And I think there were a couple mechanical things that I've been working on this past offseason, too, so hopefully I can put all of those together."

Hunter close with Rays: Right-hander Tommy Hunter, who returned to the Orioles last season before becoming a free agent in November, reportedly has agreed to terms on a minor league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, pending a physical.

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Hunter, who was traded to the Cubs at midseason in 2015 and came back late last August, pitched in 12 games for the Orioles and posted a 2.19 ERA with no decisions.

Around the horn: Right-hander Brad Brach had his arbitration hearing as scheduled on Thursday in nearby St. Petersburg, Fla. A decision on his case is expected Friday. … Several position players arrived ahead of Friday's first full-squad team workout and independently on Thursday. Among the position players who took batting practice were Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis, Joey Rickard, Trey Mancini, Chris Johnson, Christian Walker and Chris Dickerson. Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Flaherty participated in fielding drills on the facility's artificial turf field. … Showalter announced the pitchers for the team's two intrasquad games next Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, Mike Wright, Logan Verrett, Zach Stewart, Jason Garcia, Jayson Aquino, Joe Gunkel will pitch for one team and Tyler Wilson, Gabriel Ynoa, Donnie Hart, Oliver Drake, Parker Bridwell and Richard Rodriguez. On Wednesday, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kevin Gausman, Darren O'Day, Brad Brach, Chris Lee, T.J. McFarland and Jesus Liranzo will pitch for one team and Wade Miley, Dylan Bundy, Zach Britton, Logan Ondrusek, Mychal Givens and Jed Bradley will throw for the other team. Each pitcher will throw one inning.

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