Results tagged ‘ Kelly Johnson ’

Q&A with D-backs Infielder Kelly Johnson

Photography: Jordan Megenhardt

By Greg Dillard

Last season, Kelly Johnson made quite a first impression on Arizona. In his first season in the desert, he posted a .284 batting average while achieving career-highs in home runs (26) and RBI (71).

Johnson saw much different results throughout the first month and a half of the 2011 season, though. He hit below .200 and struck out at a rapid rate.

Those struggles appear to be coming to an end after Johnson caught fire at the end of May. In his last 21 games, Johnson is batting .291 with six home runs, seven doubles, and 16 RBI.

D-backs Insider sat down with Johnson to discuss his red-hot bat and his team’s ascension into first place in the NL West.

DI: So after a slow start to the season, is it encouraging to you to return to your old form at the plate?

KJ: Yeah it is. It feels like a long time coming just to get going and help this team do some things. It’s coming at the right time though because we’ve been playing great and we’ve been winning a lot of games.

DI: Not only have you been swinging it well, but also guys like Justin Upton have been swinging well. Do you think a strength of this team is having a lineup that can pick each other up?

KJ: Yeah, and all the way down to the last guy on the bench, anybody that’s got to pinch hit on a given night. We got a team that’s got a lot of guys that just step right in and not miss a beat and are great players. It’s good that we have such a deep roster and a good team. It’s never just going to be one guy, and I think that’s a very big strength of this team.

DI: What else do you think could help you guys continue May’s success into June?

KJ: I mean you’re not going to go on streaks like this all the time. What’s going to help you be consistent and win a lot of games is just continuing to have the pitching we’ve had. The bullpens pitched great, and just having some timely hits and scoring some runs. We’ve been in a lot of games all the way through to the end, and we found a lot of ways to win them more recently.

DI: Some people aren’t buying into the D-backs just yet, but is flying under the radar a thing that you think this team is comfortable in doing?

KJ: Yeah, you got to earn having the expectations and having people believe you. So if we’re playing like this and it’s all the way in September and we’re going to the playoffs that’s good enough for us, then years after we can be expected to win and then go from there. So right now we’re in a position to be in and we’re leading the division and starting a new month. We just want to have the same success in June that we had in May.

Collmenter Sets Franchise Record

Photography: Jon Willey

By Greg Dillard

Josh Collmenter set a D-backs franchise record Thursday by throwing 12 consecutive scoreless innings as a starter to begin his career.

The right-hander shut out the Braves through six frames, limiting the opposition to just two hits. After yet another solid outing, he now has an  0.69 ERA in 26 innings pitched this season, including six shutout innings against the Dodgers last Saturday.

Collmenter got things started by retiring the first five batters he faced. After a double of the bat of Freddie Freeman in the second, Collmenter then retired four more in a row through the third inning.

He ended his evening on a strong note by setting Atlanta down 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth. It was an efficient outing for Collmenter, who threw 76 pitches.

“That’s been my game plan to throw strikes and make them put the ball in play,” Collmenter said. “Once again tonight the defense, with a lot of plays going into foul territory and making some plays up against the fence, played flawless tonight.”

Collmenter even collected his first career Major League hit in the third innings when he hit a high chopper to third base that Chipper Jones couldn’t corral.

Thursday’s start was yet another strong performance for Collmenter in his rookie season.

“It’s definitely surprising,” Collmenter said. “You come up and you want to do well. You want to throw strikes and give the team a chance to win. Moving into the starting role, I think, has been back to my comfort zone a little bit.”

Johnson provided heroics in Wednesday’s comeback win

In Wednesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves, second baseman Kelly Johnson hit the ball hard in each of his at-bats.

In the opening frame, he laced a ground ball to first base but was retired by Freeman. Two innings later, Johnson grounded out once again, this time to second.

His third plate appearance yielded a well-struck fly ball to deep center field that was corralled by Nate McLouth.

Johnson laid down a sacrifice bunt in the seventh inning and was hit by a pitch in the ninth.

Those rockets off the bat did not yield any hits. But in his sixth plate appearance, he finally broke through.

With runners on first and second in the bottom of the eleventh, Johnson laced a Craig Kimbrel offering into right field to plate Josh Wilson and knot the score at 4-4.

It was a crucial turning point for Johnson and the D-backs who entered the inning three outs from defeat.

Against Kimbrel, Johnson went into the at-bat looking for a fastball to hit hard.

“That was the only pitch I was looking for,” Johnson said. “I was wondering about his slider. He threw a couple to (Ryan Roberts) and so it was just one of those things where I just wanted to sell out one time to see what happened, glad that I hit it hard.”

Johnson’s single also advanced Roberts to third base, who scored one batter later on Justin Upton’s walk-off single.

It was a marquee victory for the D-backs against a talented Braves squad.

There were undoubtedly some familiar faces in the opposing dugout for Johnson. He called Atlanta home for the first four years of his Major League career.

“There’s significance because they’re one of the best teams in the National League,” Johnson said. “It’s fun to play against your friends. It’s good to beat good teams all the time.”

Zavada, Johnson Report on Day 3 at SRF

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Jarrod Parker looked good throwing a bullpen session on Wednesday at Salt River Fields.

Photography: Jordan Megenhardt

 

By Greg Dillard

 

It was business as usual at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on Wednesday as pitchers and catchers took part in day three of spring workouts.

 

Pitchers continued with bullpens, PFP (pitcher’s fielding practice), conditioning and hitting work.

 

Hitting figures to be a continuous work in progress for the pitching staff as manager Kirk Gibson has expressed his desire for pitchers to be able to handle the bat.

 

As workouts progress, several players have established a routine and are developing a routine.

 

“It feels great, obviously to be out here at the great Salt River fields,” pitcher Barry Enright said. “You can’t really complain being at this place, but two bullpens now. Obviously, getting into the conditioning and the thick of things and being with all the guys. It’s good to be back, and it’s definitely a lot less boring than being at home by myself.”

 

Among the pitchers who participated in workouts today was left-hander Clay Zavada. Zavada missed the first two days of camp for reasons he deemed were a personal matter.

 

While the southpaw did not throw a bullpen, he was able to play catch and workout.

 

“It was great,” Zavada said. “It was sunshine, everyone’s in a good mood, working hard. It’s a good group of guys. Staff is awesome. I love it. It’s been real exciting so far first day.”

 

Zavada said he hopes to throw a bullpen on Friday or Saturday.

 

While getting Zavada in camp was a priority, so was reaching an agreement with starting second baseman Kelly Johnson.

 

Johnson agreed to a one-year deal with the D-backs on Tuesday, which allowed him and the organization to avoid an arbitration hearing. Johnson reported to camp Wednesday.

 

“I don’t know anybody that’s ever been to a hearing so you go off of hearsay on things like that, and nobody has too many good of things to say,” second baseman Kelly Johnson said. “Besides all that, it’s no different than anybody else’s deal free agency or whatever. It’s one of those things that once it’s announced, it’s all good, but after that it’s all about team.”

 

Now that Johnson is under contract, the infielder has developed a winner’s mentality he hopes the D-backs will hold as team throughout 2011.

 

“I’ll be honest, I’m sick of the moral victory thing we started doing at the end of the year. I think we started with a really good, positive note going into spring training. Going into the season, I think everybody was very strong. I think we played great baseball in Spring Training. I know spring games don’t mean a lot, but there was just a lot of confidence. I think guys going up to the mound, going up to the plate, I think everybody was confident and positive. I thought we had a really good momentum going into the season.

 

“It was unfortunate the way some games were lost, but that’s how it works. You still have a chance to go and play in May, June and July. April and May, those months aren’t going to decide your season.”

 

Johnson is adamant that a moral victory attitude for the D-backs has to be put to an end this season.  

 

“We started looking for those positives, but we’re losing,” Johnson said. “I think that’s got to be done. That’s go to be out the window, it’s got to be more about how are we going to win today. What are the Arizona Diamondbacks going to do today to win the baseball game?”

 

Here are some shots from D-backs staffer Jordan Megenhardt:

 

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

Notes From Day 2 at SRF

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D-backs pitcher Micah Owings signed autographs for fans after workouts on Tuesday.

Photograph: Jordan Megenahardt

 

By Greg Salvatore

 

 

The D-backs had their second day of workouts at Salt River Fields. Here are some of the goings on:

 

Johnson Deal Done

As noted earlier, the D-backs agreed to terms with Kelly Johnson on a one-year deal to avoid arbitration.

 

“I’ve said all along that to me there are no winners in going to a hearing and arbitration,” D-backs General Manager Kevin Towers said. “Sometimes it hurts relationships and especially being new here, I want the player to be focused on getting ready for the season, not on putting on a suit and sitting in a hearing room tomorrow. It was good for both sides.”

 

Towers said that the sides did not work on a multi-year deal, with the contract being strictly a one-year deal.

 

This is Johnson’s last year as an arbitration-eligible player, so he would be a free agent at the end of this contract.

 

Versatile Owings Getting Ready

When the D-backs signed Micah Owings to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, Towers said he expected Owings could be used as a batter in addition to pitching.

 

Owings is already getting after it in Spring Training. On Tuesday, he took ground balls at first base, and on Wednesday he will throw a bullpen session.

 

“He said, ‘I want to be ready for when the position players get here,'” Manager Kirk Gibson said. “He could be more of a bullpen guy, but if he can play some first base, he’s going to get some innings at first base in Spring Training.

 

“Maybe he’ll go in and play an inning at first at the end of the game. He gives us flexibility. He’s got great power and he wants to hit.”

 

As valuable of a tool as he could be as a bat, Owings is primarily a pitcher. And his value to the D-backs is directly proportional to his value in the bullpen.

 

“I want him to be throwing the ball good,” Gibson said. “First and foremost, I want him to have value as a pitcher. The other is a bonus.”

 

Veteran Relievers Teaching Pickoff Moves

“On the pick fields, there is a lot of mechanics to throw to the bases better,” Gibson said. “It’s just the second day and we’re progressing.”

 

Former D-backs reliever Mike Fetters and left-hander Ed Vosberg, a native Arizonan who pitched 10 seasons in the big leagues, were the instructors on the pick fields.

 

“Those guys were very good,” Gibson said. “They understood it, it was an important part of their game and consequently they became very good at it. We know it can’t be a weapon for everybody, but is there one guy or two guys or five guys?

 

“We’re on the pitchers’ side of it now, but when our infielders get here, they’re going to have to be very communicative as well. It takes some communication from everybody on the infield. Our goal is that they run the show out there.”

 

Here are some shots from D-backs staffer Jordan Megenhardt:

 

 

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

Johnson is N.L. Player of the Month

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Photography: Jordan Megenhardt

 

Kelly Johnson stepped to the plate in the 10th inning on April 28 in Colorado, the D-backs tied up 11-11 with the Colorado Rockies. He was 0-for his last 11, and hitless in that series. Still, Johnson had been scorching hot all month and even with a power lefty on the mound in the person of Franklin Morales, the Rockies had to be at least a bit concerned.

 

Johnson showed everyone why as he launched a go-ahead (and game-winning as it proved to be) home run to deep right-center field. His one hit in the series was the biggest hit in the series.

 

Johnson finished the month of April batting .313 with a .404 on-base percentage, a .750 slugging percentage, nine home runs, eight doubles, 18 RBI, 17 runs, 13 walks.

 

Johnson was named the National League Player of the Month for April on Monday.

 

“Regardless of joining a team or not,” Johnson said, “you just want to start the season well.”

 

While Johnson has had other great month-long stretches in his career, he had never hit more than five home runs in a month at any point in his career until this season.

 

“I’ve never had (a month) like that,” he said. “I’ve driven in runs like that and hit for a high average, but not the home runs.”

 

Johnson finished the month leading the National League in home runs.

 

“If they go out or whatever, that’s cool, but I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I just want to keep getting pitches to hit, that’s all I care about.”

 

This was the fifth time a D-backs player has been named Player of the Month. The previous winners were:

 

Matt Williams — April 1999

.357 AVG, 8 HR, 25 RBI

 

Luis Gonzalez — April 2001

.315 AVG, 26 R, 13 HR, .804 SLG

13 HR set N.L. record and tied MLB record for April

 

Luis Gonzalez — June 2001

.417 AVG, 26 R, 7 2B, 12 HR,

35 RBI, 86 TB, .835 SLG

 

Justin Upton — May 2009

.373 AVG, 7 HR, 21 RBI

 

Colorado starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, who threw a no-hitter against Atlanta on April 17, was the NL Pitcher of the Month. D-backs pitchers have won that particular award nine times, most recently Dan Haren in May 2008.

 

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