Right-hander pitcher Kevin Johnson was drafted in the 20th round in the 2010 first-year player draft from the University of West Florida. Johnson began his career as a starter but became a strictly a reliever/closer during his rookie season. This past Monday, Johnson notched a win in a 4-3 victory over the Northwest Arkansas Naturals to improve his record to 2-1. However, he leads the Texas League in saves with seven and is 7-of-8 in save chances this season.
In the off-season, Johnson lives in Pensacola, Fla. with his wife, Courtney.
How do you feel about leading the league in saves?
I don’t pay attention to it, but it is great. (About the 7-of-8 chances) I blew one at Tulsa on a broken-bat single. It happens. It was my first blown chance and won’t be my last this year.
Last year, you moved up AAA at Salt Lake City. What was that like?
It was fun, and I was the first pitcher from the 2010 draft to make Salt Lake. I was sent back down because of roster numbers. Stat-wise I was pitching well just not the performances they were looking for.
Reliever vs. starter?
It doesn’t matter to me. As long as I’m pitching I don’t care.
What is the difference between being a reliever instead of a starter?
As a starter, you have more of a routine and every five days will pitch. As a reliever, you may pitch one day and not pitch for another four to five days. It is also upon yourself to get ready. If by the fourth day, I haven’t pitched then I throw off the mound before batting practice. I figured out early in 2011 what to do. Our routine changes day by day and inning by inning. The weight room is different, too. Because we don’t know when we will pitch like a starter, we do soft stuff for flexibility.
How do you prepare yourself for a game?
I start getting mentally prepared in the fifth inning. I concentrate on the hitters and go off what I see and what the catcher has seen. If I see a guy taking all game, I throw as fast as I can to get ahead.
My sinker is a mixture of a two-seam fastball and fork ball, and I started throwing it all the time in 2011. It’s a good pitch for ground balls and keeping the pitch count down.
Do you get nervous?
Sometimes more anxious than nervous particularly when I come in for somebody in the eighth, and the runners are not my runners but theirs. I have to pay extra attention to the pitch location because I don’t want to give up the tying run or the go-ahead run.
Besides making the Big Leagues, what are you working on or want to accomplish?
I’m really trying to master my slider so I can be more than a one-pitch guy. In the off-season I give camps at the Pensacola Training Academy, and we are really trying to get that going. With RBI and MLB backing us, we are trying to bring back baseball to Pensacola.