Johnson (4-2, 4.71 ERA) is 0-1 with a 6.46 ERA and has allowed six home runs in 23 2-3 innings over four starts against Tampa Bay (11-17) since joining the Yankees (14-11) last season.
The left-hander has won his last two starts, but struggled in his most recent outing, surrendering six runs, six hits and hitting two batters in five innings of a 17-6 victory over Toronto on Saturday.
“I pitched poorly,” Johnson said. “Five, six runs should be enough, you would think.”
One Yankee who pulled out of a slump is Alex Rodriguez, who delivered an RBI single in the 10th inning to snap an 0-for-12 skid and give New York a 4-2 win in the series opener on Wednesday.
“He just gets to the point where he tries to do too much. That’s basically what it is,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “I said just trust that the ball will find a hole somewhere and have an at-bat where you’re going to make good contact.”
It was only Rodriguez’s third RBI in the last eight games. The third baseman had a similar slump at this time last season, knocking in just three runs in 10 games from April 27-May 6.
The Yankees are expected to be without Gary Sheffield for the fourth consecutive game due to a bruised left wrist. The right fielder suffered the injury in Saturday’s win in a collision at first base with Toronto’s Shea Hillenbrand.
“It depends on where he is, his physical well being and how he’s feeling,” Torre said.
The Devil Rays will try to avoid a season high-tying fourth straight loss on Thursday, and will send Doug Waechter (0-1, 5.95) to the mound. The right-hander threw five scoreless innings Saturday before running into trouble in the sixth, when he only got one out and allowed three runs in Tampa Bay’s 9-6 loss to Boston.
“I felt good,” Waechter said. “I felt like I was just missing with a few pitches. I didn’t feel tired at all. I felt good, overall.”
Waechter did not make it out of the first inning in his last start against the Yankees, yielding five runs—three earned—in a 17-3 loss on Sept. 13, 2005.
Tampa Bay is expecting shortstop Julio Lugo (abdominal strain) and third baseman Aubrey Huff (left knee sprain) to return soon. The duo has missed a combined 47 games this season with Lugo sidelined since April 3 and Huff out since April 11.
“I’ve been thinking about it all day,” Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Obviously, it’s kind of fun, because then when you get Jorge (Cantu) back and Rocco (Baldelli) back, it really takes on a nice shading to it. We’ll start with the first few guys at first. And that will make a difference how our lineup sets up.”