By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — When Chris Johnson was drafted this June by the San Francisco Giants and learned he’d be assigned to Salem-Keizer of the Northwest League, he couldn’t help smiling.
He knew he’d be going home.
The Meadowdale High School graduate is back in his old stomping grounds as the Volcanoes visit Everett for their three-game series against the AquaSox.
“It’s definitely nice to be playing back here again,” said Johnson, a pitcher who graduated from Meadowdale in 2009. “I remember going to a couple AquaSox games when I was a little kid and those were real fun. So, it’s kind of weird to be out here playing against them after watching them play for years growing up.”
Johnson received his chance to test his mettle against the Sox on Wednesday and was impressive during four innings of relief work. Using a fastball that hit around 90 mph and a tight breaking ball, Johnson allowed one run on two hits and a walk, striking out four. He threw 55 pitches, 37 of them for strikes. The four-inning stint was Johnson’s longest among his nine appearances.
Johnson was drafted by the Giants in the 17th round of this year’s draft out of the University of Portland. This spring as a junior at Portland the 6-foot-4 right-hander went 4-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 15 appearances (13 starts). In 76 innings, he allowed 81 hits and 21 walks and struck out 57.
“I expected to go somewhere around (the 17th round),” Johnson said. “I was told between 15 and 20, so it was kind of what I was expecting. I was pretty happy to get picked by the Giants. They’re a West Coast team and I was always kind of a fan of them after the Mariners while I was growing up.”
Johnson has had a solid start to his professional career. Going into Wednesday he was 1-1 with a 4.91 earned run average, with a sterling 16-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 181/3 innings. He’s worked primarily out of the bullpen, but of late he’s been piggybacking on the starts of Chris Stratton, outperforming San Francisco’s first-round pick from this year’s draft.
“It’s been really fun,” Johnson said. “It’s definitely a different experience coming from college. I’ve had a couple rough outings, but overall I think I’ve pitched real well.
“I knew coming in this was going to be more challenging,” Johnson added. “But I think I’ve adapted well and been able to throw most of my pitches for strikes when I wanted to.”
Johnson said the Giants don’t have him working on any specific parts of his game, at least not yet.
“There’s a couple minor mechanical things I’ve been working on, but nothing major so far,” Johnson said. “I think that will happen in the fall if they want to tweak something. But now it’s just little stuff. They’re seeing what all the new guys have and letting us do our thing.”
As for his goals the rest of the season, he’s just trying to keep it simple.
“I just want to keep throwing the ball well, keep throwing all my pitches for strikes and getting guys out consistently,” Johnson said. “That’s really all I can ask for at this point.”
Salem-Keizer manager Tom Trebelhorn put on a show for the Kids Day crowd Wednesday at Everett Memorial Stadium.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, the former Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs skipper came out to argue following Ketel Marte’s bunt single. Trebelhorn continued the argument from the dugout and was ejected. Trebelhorn came back out to argue more demonstratively, then tipped his cap and bowed to the cheering crowd as he headed off the field.
Trebelhorn was later spotted signing autographs in the concourse as he headed to the clubhouse.
Nick Patterson, Herald writer