6-1 213 BR TR
Born- August 31, 1987 in Baltimore, MD
Obtained- Selected in 13th round of 2005 draft
His fast ball comes up around 90 mph and he has a dependable curve which he uses wisely to put batters away. While his fast ball is only a bit above average, it has a sinking action that is especially tough on righthanders. His curve also drops down effectively and he has a much better feel for a changeup than most high schoolers.
He has an excellent feel for the craft probably because he's been schooled well by his father, former major league pitcher Dave, who pitched for the Pirates in 1987 (at the same time Scott Van Slyke's dad Andy was on the team).
Three different Dave Johnson's played or pitched for the Orioles, confusing a number of people but here is the correct information.
Steve's dad, Dave, pitched 53 games for the Orioles 1989-91, leading the team in wins with 13 in 1990. He spent most of 1993 in the Detroit Tigers but was on the disabled list the entire time. He retired and started a baseball school and is now working on Oriole telecasts as a pre- and post-game analyst, filling in for Jim Palmer as needed.
Steve was only 17 (He would turn 18 on August 31) when he debuted in the rookie Gulf Coast league but a sore arm cut his season to only six games and finished 0-2, 9.53. Hardly the way the state of Maryland's high school Player of the Year had imagined how things would be.
In 2006 he worked hard to recover in the spring though he wasn't surprised when the camp broke that he was left with the extended camp squad.
And the Dodgers knew that he had far more ability than that brief encounter in the GCL had demonstrated. So, early in the season when a 911 call came from Jacksonville which was suddenly short on pitching, they nominated Steve as the person to fill the void.
He flew to Birmingham, got into uniform and was in the bullpen when the Barons started pounding the Suns so the call came, well before he expected it. Suddenly he was in a Double A game with a decent-sized crowd cheering the home guys.
"My knees were shaking," He said. "But I just wanted to throw strikes, do what I could do and see what happened." And that was just what he did, two innings without allowing a single runner- six up, six down.
As quickly as possible he phoned his parents. "I couldn't wait to tell them what happened but my dad surprised me when he answered because the first thing he said was, 'You did great.' They had been able to hear the game on the internet. So, he was asking about every ball hit- were the flies hit hard? How about the ground outs?'"
His teammates at Jacksonville proved to be more than friendly and helpful, he says. First baseman Craig Brazill, who had spent time in the big leagues, introduced himself and asked where he had played and how old he was. Johnson told him he was 18 and just out of the Gulf Coast League.
"I played in the GCL and let's see, you would have been eight years old then. And now we're teammates, good heavens," Brazill said.
Steve was to get another taste of Double-A action three days later. THe was given a 1-0 lead to protect when he entered in the sixth. He gave up a single but also notched two strikeouts in a scoreless inning. He got through the seventh without any damage as well.
In the eighth, he notched another "K" but then gave up a double. They brought in Mark Alexander who got the next two outs and pitched a scoreless ninth to preseve the 1-0 win.
That was it, for the record, 4.2 innings with a perfect 0.00 ERA. And a marvelous experience.
Then he was sent to Ogden, where in 14 starts he struck out a league-leading 86 (in 76.2 innings) and posted a 3.89 earned run average while allowing a miniscule .133 average to opponent batters.
Steve doesn't get people out with mid to upper 90's heat. Rather, he relies a lot on a sinking fast ball that usually hovers around 90 and also throws an advanced change.
In 2007 he started strongly with Inland Empire, missed much of the middle of the season with an aching arm, then became the best pitcher on the team and impressed the Dodgers so much down the stretch he was sent to the Hawaii Winter Baseball League where he again dazzled.
Injury free in 2008, Johnson was tough to beat for Great Lakes in 2008 and after 13 starts he nailed down his league-leading ninth win and was sporting a 2.34 earned run average. He struck out 10 Lansing batters to equal a career high.
"It doesn't happen often, but it's nice when it does," Johnson said of his double-digit strikeout performance. "I was getting opportunities for strikeouts and was able to take advantage of them.
"I was using my fastball to get ahead in the count and then mixed up my offspeed pitches," he added.
"My goal was to keep the momentum going. I feel like I've got my old self back. "I try not to look ahead," he said when asked about his future. "I just look forward to my next start."
Johnson won four straight starts and seven of his last eight. He didn't allowed a run in six of his 13 starts and that earned the 20-year-old a promotion to Inland Empire.
With the 66ers he pitched well into August but then ran out of gas in the final four starts, allowing 32 hits (almost half as many as in his other seven starts) in 14.2 innings and 23 runs. His earned run average exploded from a creditable 4.10 to 7.10.
Despite all, he struck out 9.52 per nine innings with the Suns, his best professional record since his Gulf Coast debit in 2005, while working in Class-A+ at the age of 20.
He should pitch for Inland Empire inn 2009 and who knows, might get a taste of Albuquerque later in the season.
Steve Johnson year team w-l era gm gs in h bb so ave 2005 GCLg 0-2 9.53 6 3 11 18 4 14 .360 2006 Jacksn 0-0 0.00 2 0 5 2 2 3 .267 Ogden 5-5 3.89 14 14 72 79 25 86 .133 2007 GLakes 3-6 4.85 18 16 82 90 40 65 .280 2008 GLakes 9-2 2.34 13 13 73 59 25 57 .223 Jacksn 3-6 7.10 11 11 52 68 21 55 .317 ------------------------------------------------------- Totals 20-21 4.63 64 57 291 316 117 208 .273