Getting drafted proved to be the thrill of a lifetime for Stephen Johnson. Getting back to business once the celebration was over, however, proved to be an unexpected challenge.
Johnson, a 2009 graduate of Boulder High who was selected in the sixth round of the June Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft out of St. Edward’s University, already is learning the tricks of the trade at the pro level.
After getting his arm back in shape during a short stint in the Arizona Rookie League, Johnson, a San Francisco Giants draftee, has been assigned to the Class A Salem-Keizer (Ore.) Volcanoes of the short-season Northwest League.
“When I got (to Arizona) I hadn’t thrown for a few weeks,” said Johnson, a right-hander who earned Division-II All-American honors at the Austin, Tex.-based St. Edward’s. “They brought a couple guys there just to get them to throw BP for a week and a half or so. I was able to get my arm in shape before they sent me to A-ball.”
On the heels of the draft, Johnson made two appearances with the Arizona League Giants, allowing one earned run in two innings with two walks, two strikeouts, and one hit allowed. He moved to Salem-Keizer in early July and made his debut with the Volcanoes on July 8.
Johnson’s first 10 appearances with Salem-Keizer displayed the sort of mixed results common among freshly drafted hurlers. In five of those outings, the reliever tossed one scoreless inning, surrendering a combined five hits with six strikeouts and no walks in those five innings.
Johnson otherwise has been suffering a few growing pains. In the other four outings in which he threw at least one full inning, Johnson allowed seven earned runs in six innings with four walks and three strikeouts.
“The biggest thing at this level is you have to be consistent with your mechanics,” Johnson said. “In a couple of my first outings, when I gave up a couple of runs, I talked to the coaches. They said they looked at film of me from college and there were some things I was not repeating in my delivery. The batters here are much better than in college and you always have to be sharp and consistent.”
Like most fresh draftees, Johnson hopes the short-season slate will help him become acclimated to the pace and expectations of the professional level. A full offseason, followed by a player’s first professional spring training, typically accelerates the learning curve for young pitchers.
“Stats are important, but mostly they want to see how you react in certain situations,” Johnson said. “How you react to failure, how you react to success, those are the kinds of things coaches and all the people in the organization want to see. This is a much faster pace and I’m definitely trying to keep my strength up now that I’m throwing almost every single day.”
Follow Pat Rooney on Twitter: @prooney07