James Johnson: Control and Consistency

James Johnson has been on the prospect map since a breakout campaign in 2005. After multiple brief trials at the major league level, Johnson is putting on the finishing touches at triple-A Norfolk. ITW recently sat down with Johnson to discuss his arsenal, his progress this season and much more.

Forever looking for starting pitching, the Baltimore Orioles selected the lanky Jim Johnson out of Endicott High School in New York in the fifth round of the 2001 MLB draft.

The promising starter, whose fastball generally ranges in the upper-80's to low-90's, made his debut for the Orioles organization in the Gulf Coast League in 2001. There, he posted a record of 0-1 in seven starts with an ERA of 3.86. Johnson spent both the 2002 and 2003 seasons with the Bluefield Orioles in the rookie-level Appalachian League. His cumulative numbers for his days in Bluefield included a record of 7-4 with an ERA hovering around 4.00, with 82 strikeouts in 107 IP.

After a 2005 season that ended in Johnson being declared the organizational pitcher of the year, he moved up to double-A Bowie for his first taste of the upper minors. He collected 13 wins and struck out 124 batters in 156 IP and only surrendered 57 BB. For his impressive performances, Johnson was called up by the Orioles to fill an open slot in the rotation. His major league debut lasted only three innings and yielded eight earned runs, nine hits and three walks en-route to picking up the loss.

"At the major league level, everyone is that much better. They don't miss as many pitches. You might get away with a few down here [at Norfolk] but those hitters up there are different. If you don't have a legitimate out-pitch, they will just foul off all day and force you to use a lot of pitches and they will wear you down. Up there, you have to be that much better and elevate your game to compensate for their ability."

In late April this year, Johnson got the call from the Orioles and was asked to fill a spot in the bullpen. He lasted only two innings and learned the value of having an effective out-pitch after surrendering two earned runs on three hits in just two innings of work.

"Most days my out-pitch is going to be my curveball but, if that's not working, then it's got to be my fastball. It just depends on the day and the situation. That's what will determine what the pitch is going to be."

Since being sent back to triple-A Norfolk, Johnson has posted a less than stellar record. Although, Johnson's sub par record is not indicative of the quality pitching that he has produced. In 115 IP, the right-handed hurler has struck out 92 batters and walked only 37 of the batters he faced. His ERA currently sits at 3.99 with only 59 total earned runs yielded.

Of late, the right-hander has failed to consistently locate his pitches and has been shelled by the International League hitters. I n eight of his last nine starts, the right-hander has yielded at least 7 hits and given up 26 earned runs.

"I have got to become more consistent and execut,e because that's what it all boils down to. I have to trust my stuff and know that I can execute at the next level."

"Some days are better than others and, when I can harness my control, it's a whole different situation than what I showed in Baltimore. I am just trying to improve with every pitch that I throw and elevate my game overall."

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