MadFriars Interview: Craig Johnson

Outfielder Craig Johnson had some butterflies in his stomach when the minor league rosters were announced, because his name wasn't on them. That changed Wednesday when Johnson's name was added to the Fort Wayne Wizards roster, replacing catcher Jose Lobaton, who is stuck in Peoria recovering from an injury. talked to Johnson about his new approach at the plate, the difference between speed and ‘game speed,' and what it's like to face a ‘Friday Night Guy' every night.

James Renwick:  You say you have average speed; we have you tracking a little better than that, but what it does mean, and how is it, that unlike a lot of speed guys you've actually learned how to steal bases, where did you pick that up?

Craig Johnson:  I think for me it's a ‘game speed' kind of thing, I think I'm faster on the bases than on a 60 yard dash.  When I'm tracking balls in the outfield, or going first to third, coaches have told me that I'm faster than when I get timed.  As far as stealing bases, it's something that developed over time, with different coaches.  I learned what the good times to run and bad times to run were.  I've gotten good times on how fast the pitcher is to home, and I understand when to run and what counts to run in.  It's a learning process.  Some guys run regardless of the count, the situation, the score, but I don't do that, I run when I should be running, when my team needs me to run. 

James Renwick:  You said you were getting tired toward the end of last season, has conditioning been a focus during the offseason?

Craig Johnson:  It really was a big part, this offseason was the first where I was able to concentrate solely on baseball.  Last year I played in 61 games in college, plus going to school.  It makes it tougher when there is all that other stuff to think about, but this year I'm coming in to camp, I haven't had school for six months, and it's just refreshing to be able to concentrate on baseball.  This offseason I did a lot of weight lifting, a lot of training in the gym, because I just felt I wasn't strong enough, and I wanted to make sure I was ready for a full season.

James Renwick:  How big was the jump from a smaller college to the pros?

Craig Johnson:  Coming out of Sacramento State we played a lot of bigger programs, so it wasn't like I'd never seen players this good.  The change was basically seeing a ‘Friday night guy' everyday.  At Sacramento State we played the bigger programs on the weekend, and when we played smaller schools you didn't see the same caliber of pitchers on a consistent basis.  So going to the pros for me is just like seeing everyone's #1 more often. 

James Renwick:  You've got an above average arm, but is it enough to keep you in right field?

Craig Johnson:  I'll probably be in left, but I don't care, for me it's about being in the lineup.  I like playing right, but it's one of those things, if another guy is blessed with a better arm then so be it.  An arm is a good tool, but it's not going to make the biggest difference.  My arm isn't going to be the deciding factor in whether I make it to the Majors. 

James Renwick:  You worked on shortening your swing last year, how comfortable have you gotten with the new approach?

Craig Johnson:  That's something that's been changing since end of the year last year, and in the off season I worked really hard to keep it the same as I finished.  I think the more coaching I get, the more pitches I see, the more I get comfortable.  I've had a lot of great hitting coaches, and I may learn another thing or two, because you always have to be learning, but for now it does feel good, and everyday I get more comfortable.  Down the road I'm going to be swinging exactly the way I want to be, I'm probably not quite there, not 100% yet, but I'll be there soon.

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