Friday Flashback: Pitcher Kris Johnson

11/16/2012 6:04 AM -

Independent Baseball Insider   

Kris Johnson was playing video games in the basement of his home outside Kansas City when he picked up the phone to hear a voice say he would like to talk to him about his latest news as well as his days pitching in an Independent league little more than one year ago.

While he might have preferred sticking with the video activity a while longer, the tone of voice said it all when the caller congratulated the left-hander, who only recently turned 28, on being invited to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring training camp three months from now.

“I couldn’t be happier for him,” echoed Tim Doherty, who managed Johnson at nearby Kansas City in the American Association the second half of 2011 after a five and a half-year run in the Boston farm system had ended at the Triple-A level (Pawtucket, RI). That was the only organization Johnson had known since he left Wichita State as a decorated, first-round sandwich draft choice. He had been the 40th selection in the entire country in the 2006 draft.

Johnson has every right to be happy. He is one of probably less than half a dozen out of more than 80 players who have toiled in the Independent leagues and reached the top level of  a minor league farm system recently who knows for certain he will be in a Major League spring training camp.

We can point to 18 one-time Indy players who are on Major League rosters, but know of 83 others who were on Triple-A lists until the recent purge which threw nearly half of them into the unknown pool known as free agency.

That’s how fortunate Kris Johnson is because the 6-foot-4 hurler knows he will have a locker in the Pirates’ clubhouse in Bradenton, Fla. come mid-February.

You can bet the farm everyone else on a Triple-A roster as well as the dozens and dozens in lower levels of the affiliated ranks would love to being playing video games or whatever their passion is without need to wait by the telephone to hear that they will get an opportunity to further showcase their talent in major league training camps.

Johnson admitted he had fun pitching for the Kansas City T-Bones and that in Independent Baseball “you’re playing as a team and not trying to take someone’s job (as is the case in a Major League farm system)”, but it does not take a scholar to understand opening the season with a salary well north of $400,000 in a perfectly manicured American or National League stadium is a baseball player’s dream.

Doherty, who is in discussion with more than one Major League organization about his own future after spending last summer as the backup hitting coach to Dave Magadan as well as throwing batting practice for the Red Sox, recognizes Johnson has a natural bonus of being left-handed with “plus pitches” as he tries to earn his first regular-season Major League opportunity, but “he was trying to get his confidence back” when he reported to the T-Bones after his earned run average ballooned to 12.63 in his first eight appearances at Pawtucket in 2011.

“It was a little bit of a process to get rid of the negativity,” Doherty remembers, and Johnson was a “fantastic” student. “It wasn’t any one thing we (Doherty and pitching coach Caleb Balbuena) did. The credit goes to Kris.” 

By season’s end in the American Association,  Johnson had compiled a 6-3 record and a 3.23 ERA in 16 starts, and when the Pirates came calling last offseason the hurler went 3-2, 2.09 in 15 appearances for Double-A Altoona, Penn., and 5-2, 4.53 in 20 games at Indianapolis to earn the faith of Pittsburgh brass. He was used in both starting and relief roles.

Johnson has one other step before spring training as he keeps his fastball (up to 94), curve and change sharp and continues to work on developing a slider. That will be to pitch for Escogido in the Dominican Republic after Thanksgiving.

Search Archive »

Browse by Month »

June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007