Padres Prospect Interview: Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson has been an instrumental part of the Lake Elsinore Storm and a driving force behind their quest for a California League Championship. He knocked in a run as his team took a 1-0 lead over San Jose on Thursday and has been on a tear since August began.

While he did not reach his goal of playing in Mobile this year, he is putting all his efforts into leading Lake Elsinore to a California League Championship.

Hurt by injuries for the third straight season, Michael Johnson is spending his third year with the Storm. A ticket to the Arizona Fall League has been punched and going to Mobile or even Portland in 2006 is a given.

One thing he doesn't have is regrets.

He ended his year hitting .295 with 20 doubles, five triples, 21 homers and 76 RBI's in 73 games. During the month of August, Johnson smoked 11 homers and knocked in 30.

The first baseman missed a significant part of the season after having surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his right hand on May 24.

During the final weeks of the season would you have rather been in Mobile or in Lake Elsinore where you can get a few more games and try and win the Championship.

Michael Johnson: That is a tough question. Either way I would be perfectly happy. We have a good opportunity here. We have played well, for the most part, all season. We gave ourselves a good chance in the playoffs with a first round bye. We are trying to win this thing.

Mobile has got its high points as well. It is Double-A. The next level up, advancement. Either way is a perfectly happy. I am here (in Lake Elsinore) right now and am going to do all I can do to help this team pull out a league championship.

You are going to the AFL this year and promotion aside that has to mean something:

Michael Johnson: Going to the fall league is a great opportunity, especially for me. I have been setback from injuries all three years (in the system). I am still in Lake Elsinore and for the third year. The Fall League is going to give me an opportunity to see how I stack up, as far as my baseball career. These teams usually send their top prospects. I know it is going to be some good competition, seeing some good pitches day in and day out. I am looking forward to the challenge.

You were really hammering the ball through the month of August. Talk about that zone you were in.

Michael Johnson: I wanted to come back strong off the injury and come back and have a good finish for a lot of reasons. The number one reason was to give us a push going into the playoffs. We, as a team, need to play our best in these playoff series.

Part of it has to be personal and selfish though, right?

Michael Johnson: Everybody wants to advance. That is no secret. Everyone wants to move up. We are all working hard everyday to play in the Big Leagues. That is the goal. Our coaching staff tells us from time to time that they are preparing us to play at the Major League level and not A-ball. It is what everyone is working for everyday. You want to go put up numbers and have good at bats and make plays in the field and minimize mistakes so you can hopefully get that chance.

Injuries aside, how do you assess your season:

Michael Johnson: There is always room for improvement. I am very big on that. Throughout my career, high school and college, even when you put up some good numbers, there is always room for improvement in this game. I feel like I have had a pretty good year other than the time I have missed. I have put together a lot of good at bats I feel like through the first part of the season and now towards the end. I feel like I have given myself a good chance to do what I needed to do.

But I have worked hard. I have worked hard everyday and I don't want to take away from that. I have worked hard defensively and worked hard in the cages. I have done a lot of hitting early and really just tried to keep everything in tune.

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