Simply Baseball Notebook straight from the source March 2002

 Catching Up with ADAM JOHNSON

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A lot has happened in the life of Minnesota Twins pitcher Adam Johnson since the end of the 2001 season. He married his college sweet heart, Amy, a tennis player at Cal-State Fullerton, then the couple headed to Maui for their honeymoon. Next up was the big move from Southern California (where they both grew up) to Fort Myers, Florida where they are currently building a house. Now it is time to get prepared for the 2002 season, and Johnson intends to be ready - he's been working out with other Twins' players since the beginning of January. I caught up with Adam Johnson at Twinsfest in early February, and chatted about a variety of topics.

The most pressing issue on the minds of the Twins' players during this hectic off season was, of course, contraction. Johnson, like most involved, was quite surprised to find out his team was a likely candidate, "I was back home getting ready to get married," he said. "It was interesting to hear because if you're on the team you expect to know about stuff like that. After about two months I didn't figure it could happen. I was like 'no way, it's the Twins, they've been around forever'. So we just kind of waited it out - it's a good thing it's not going to happen right now."

Johnson has spent the last month picking the brains of veteran pitchers like Eric Milton, "You learn how to get ready," he said "instead of not knowing - OK, do I need to be in mid season form at the beginning of spring training? When do I start throwing curve balls? When do I start throwing full speed? They (the veterans) bring that to the table because they've been around for awhile. You don't want to be throwing full speed two weeks before spring training because at mid season you'll be tired when you want to be at your peak."

Johnson feels the one thing that he needs to work on the most is his approach to the game, "(I need to develop) more consistency on how I go about my daily routine," he said "I've got to stay with it - when you do that you stay more loose on the field. When you are comfortable and loose that is when you play your best. You can't go out there tense or trying to be too good. That is my key thing - just try to mellow out and get comfortable."

The Twins see Johnson, the number #2 overall pick in the 2000 draft, as a starter, but after pitching only 25 innings at the big league level last year, Johnson's goal is to go north with the team in any capacity, "(I will do) whatever I can do to be with the Twins," he commented. "I like being a starter and I like being a closer, or anything in between right now. As long as you have a role, you'll feel good about yourself."

When the Twins tried to add a veteran outfielder during last year's pennant drive, the young right-hander's name came up in several trade discussions, "You try not to (pay attention) to stuff like that - some of it's hearsay, some of it's rumors - it's just other peoples thoughts," Johnson said. "I trusted the Twins to do what is best for both of us. They know I want to play for the Twins - so if they think they are going to get someone good for me, more power to them. That's their business, it's part of baseball, all I want to do is play for whoever wants me to play for them."

Being a first year player, Johnson found the experience somewhat flattering, but also took it in stride, "It's kind of like 'wow,' but at the same time, what is it worth to each team - do they want a prospect or do they need someone that can help them right now?"

Like many youngsters, Johnson grew up collecting baseball cards. He listed Mark McGwire, Nolan Ryan, and Roger Clemens as his favorites. Getting his own card was quite a thrill, "I collected so many cards, when I got my first card - that was awesome," he commented "you start to think back to when you were a little kid. My father-in-law gets most of my cards on ebay and gets every single one possible. It's kind of hard for me to get them, (but) it's nice to get a new one every once and awhile."

Now that it is finally official that contraction will not take place in 2002, Johnson and the other Twins players can finally get focused on the game. With new manager Ron Gardenhire at the helm, and a young team coming off its first winning season in almost a decade, look for the Twins to make a push at the AL Central crown in 2002. Adam Johnson will need to step up and become a solid major league pitcher if that is to happen. The Twins are very high on the rookie hurler and hope he can settle into the fourth or fifth spot solidifying their starting rotation. Only time will tell, but 2002 promises to be an exciting year for baseball fans in Minnesota.

-David Zingler

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Johnson's page @ Baseball-Almanac.com

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