May 25, 2007 at 10:05 AM
For the fifth installment of Twelve Questions with Top Prospects, SoxProspects.com sent some Qs over to Lancaster SP Kris Johnson. There were a lot of questions to pick from, many focusing on Kris’s development and the pitfalls of pitching in the Cal League. Thanks a ton to Kris for taking time out of his busy schedule during the season! Here are his responses to the questions from the SoxProspects Community.
1. Kris, thanks for answering our questions, much appreciated! What baseball players did you look up to the most growing up and how has that affected the way you carry yourself as a pro?
Kris: I always looked at Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson - just the way they compete and attitude out on the mound.
2. I have heard that Wichita State will use the promise of low pitch counts and avoided abuse to attract pitchers to their program. Is this true? What about Wichita State makes it such a pitcher factory? Do you still keep in touch with your old teammates there?
Kris: Wichita State does not abuse their pitchers at all. I believe it has to do with one person, pitching coach Brent Kemnitz. He's the guy that makes you a better pitcher - not by mechanics - but by having mental toughness. I do still keep in contact with a few players from there, the ones I hung out with when I was there.
3. Talk about your recovery from Tommy John surgery. Going through your game logs from your junior season, there seemed to be a point when everything just came back together and you began dominating hitters again. Was there a day when you realized, "OK, I'm back"? To add to this, do you feel like you've fully recovered?
Kris: The recovery was very long and strenuous, a month of just stretching, then like five months of lifting and swimming, then the long process of the throwing program took about four months to complete. I guess it was a progression at first, but just one game it clicked and everything came together, and I do now feel fully recovered. Just some tweaks here and there.
4. What was the draft process like for you? Did you have an idea that the Red Sox were interested? Did you feel like you went in the draft around where you expected?
Kris: Yes (to the third part). My agent and I are very close and he knew where I was going to go, so I wasn't really worried. I just kept it in the back of my mind, but it was a lot of fun for my family and friends. Exciting and emotional are the words I'd use.
5. What are some of the adjustments the Red Sox have made for you since you were drafted? Are there any goals that the Red Sox have specifically laid out for you this season? What do you feel like you have to improve to help reach these goals?
Kris: There was really no adjustments made - just making sure that I was staying online with my pitches. No real specific goals, just experience and confidence is what they want me to gain out here. I think I have to be more consistent.
6. Besides remaining healthy, are there any other personal goals you have for this year (perfecting a pitch, achieving a promotion, winning games, etc.)?
Kris: I think it's just perfecting all my pitches, of course I would love a promotion sometime who wouldn't!
7. Please generally discuss your arsenal. Where does your fastball sit/top out? How would you rate your curve and change? What do you consider your “out” pitch?
Kris: My fastball usually sits around 88-91 mph and top out at about 93. I would definitely rate my changeup higher than my curveball, and my out pitch would have to be either my fastball or changeup.
8. Beyond the descriptions of your “stuff”, what attributes do you think you bring to the table as a pitcher?
Kris: Composure – keeping the attitude on the mound that no one can hit me.
9. Did the Red Sox/JetHawks player development folks do anything to prepare you physically or mentally for pitching in the extreme hitters’ environment of Lancaster?
Kris: Not really, it's more of a learning experience where they want me to figure things out on my own, it's part of my development process.
10. What is it exactly about Lancaster that makes it so difficult to pitch there? Wind? Altitude? Large outfield? Subconscious effects? Or a combination of everything? What adjustments do pitchers have to make due to these park effects?
Kris: It's mainly just the wind and the altitude.
11. This season, your ERA is in the 7.00's, which is obviously bloated by the league and park you play in. How do you feel you have pitched so far? How do you feel you have developed so far?
Kris: I have developed a lot even though numbers don’t speak it. I believe that I have pitched okay, but there is still room for improvement.
12. Aside from the ballpark effects, what type of adjustments have you needed to make in your second season as a pro, both physically and mentally?
Kris: The ability to hold runners is huge out here ... they love to run whenever they can.
Bonus: If you weren’t playing baseball, what other professions interest you?
Kris: Well something with baseball of course - maybe a regional agent for my current agent.