Notes: Things clearing up for Johnson

Notes: Things clearing up for Johnson

PHOENIX -- The A's have something of a history when it comes to strange Spring Training ailments; Rich Harden's alarm-clock shoulder issue of two years ago jumps immediately to mind.

Last year, it was first baseman Dan Johnson's turn. A bottle of suntan lotion essentially turned his sophomore season into a nightmare.

Late in the spring, Johnson was trying to protect himself from another day in the Arizona sun when a crusty nozzle set in motion a series of events that led to a midseason demotion and an offseason consulting with vision experts.

"You know how when you have an old bottle of hairspray, the nozzle gets clogged and you get a stream shooting out instead of the spray [of mist]?" Johnson said Friday at Oakland's Papago Park complex. "That's what happened, and it shot straight into my eye."

From that point on, Johnson's right eye was never quite right. It was dry and blurry, requiring him to frequently blink in an effort to reset his focus. He was given drops, but they provided only temporary relief. So after the 2006 season came to an end, he went in search of more answers.

What he found out was that his own answers -- the ones he'd been giving doctors -- were part of the problem. What he thought was blurred vision was eventually diagnosed as double vision.

"It's like going to the doctor and telling him my arm hurts when it's actually my leg," Johnson said.

Once the proper diagnosis was made, Johnson started a therapy routine that typically takes 10 months to complete. Only he had to cram it into two weeks.

"It's like running a marathon with your eyes," he said. "It's hard to explain, but it really makes your eyes tired."

Johnson isn't ready to say the problem is entirely solved yet, but he remains encouraged by his progress.

"It's a process," he said. "So far, so good."

Meyer on the mend: Since coming to Oakland in the 2004 Tim Hudson trade with Atlanta, lefty Dan Meyer hasn't looked anything like the top prospect he was hyped as.

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Thanks to a startling discovery during exploratory surgery last July, he's hoping to change that in his third camp with the A's.

Slowed and extremely frustrated by a variety of shoulder problems -- limited range of motion, fatigue, soreness, etc. -- over the past two seasons, Meyer was thrilled to learn that doctors found a bone chip the size of a quarter floating around his shoulder during the procedure.

"That's not something that you'd consider good news most of the time," he said with a smile. "But for me it was great. A huge relief."

The chip, Meyer said, had gone undetected by a series of doctors who found nothing on a variety of MRI exams and X-rays.

"That's why they did the surgery," he explained. "My rotator cuff and labrum were fine, but they knew something was going on, and they didn't know what it was. So when they found the chip, the things I'd been going through finally made sense."

Meyer, who asked for the chip as a souvenir but was told it had to be broken up to be removed, said he's fully recovered from the surgery and has already throw "five or six" bullpen sessions in Arizona.

"I feel really good," he said. "Hopefully this is the year I can start showing what I can do."

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Numbers game: Dan Haren, who arrived at camp sporting a beard that looks like it came from a Grizzly Adams starter kit, will be wearing a new uniform number for the fourth time in his four big-league seasons.

Acquired in the 2004 Mark Mulder trade with the Cardinals, Haren wore No. 55 in St. Louis and was assigned No. 50. Last year, he switched to No. 24, but after realizing that it might be soon retired to honor future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, he asked for No. 15 this season.

He said he's always liked No. 15, but he didn't want to ask for it when he first got to Oakland because it's the number Hudson had worn the year before.

"It was too soon," Haren said. "But now I think it's OK. It's a good association now."

Haren, who forged a strong friendship with departed ace Barry Zito over the past couple of seasons, said he's already gotten Zito's stamp of approval on the switch.

"He likes it," Haren said. "It's like he said about his No. 75, it's symmetrical. And 15 kind of is, too."

Dribblers ...: Righty relievers Jay Witasick and Santiago Casilla were the only players expected who didn't report Friday. Casilla, who last year admitted to fudging his age and name (he used to be known as Jairo Garcia), is being held up by paperwork in the Dominican Republic. Witasick, who lives in the Baltimore area, was snowed in. ... Manager Bob Geren said he plans to bat Mike Piazza in the cleanup spot but wouldn't go into detail about the rest of his projected batting order. He did, however, admit to toying with "five or 10" different lineups after hearing that the A's had signed Shannon Stewart. "We won 93 games last year," Geren said. "Let's go with that [lineup]." ... Catcher Jason Kendall, who said he spent the bulk of his offseason chasing after his 3-year-old son, Kuyper, now has a baby daughter to look after. Karoline was born in January. ... Prospect Daric Barton and Erubiel Durazo, both looking to earn a roster spot at first base, were among the position players who arrived early.

Mychael Urban is a national writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.