Johnston’s sinker has him on the rise
TUCSON _ Andrew Johnston made his Cactus League debut Saturday. It lasted all of four pitches and resulted in a save after two ground balls, a weak fly to right field and handshakes all around.
This is the first big-league camp for the 6-foot-5 Johnston, who turns 26 next month. The Rockies did not add him to their 40-man roster last fall, meaning any team could have taken Johnston in the Rule 5 draft in December. Fortunately for the Rockies, that didn’t happen.
Johnston went 2-4 in 56 games last year at Double-A Tulsa with a 3.69 ERA. He’s a sinkerball pitcher, who pitches to contact and has a slider, changeup up and split-fingered pitch he uses to left-handed hitters in his repertoire. In 53 2/3 innings last year, Johnston allowed 63 hits and 20 walks with 38 strikeouts.
The Rockies drafted Johnston in the ninth round in 2005 out of the University of Missouri, where he went after going to Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo. It was there that Johnston began pitching, moving to the mound after rolling his ankle.
Johnston is expected to compete this spring for a job at Triple-A Colorado Springs. He allowed just three homers in 53 2/3 innings last year and in 251 2/3 professional innings, Johnston has yielded 21 homers _ 10 in 2007 at high Class A Modesto where he stumbled but excelled in 2008.
Managerhas watched Johnston get ground balls in an intrasquad game and in his Cactus League debut against a Brewers split-squad. Tracy has been impressed and envisions Johnston as someone who could fill a role in middle relief in the majors “when you’ve got that situation where you really need a ground ball to bail you out, and here comes that guy pounding that sinker like that.”
“It’s reminiscent of a guy I had named Paul Quantrill,” Tracy added. “Quantrill threw 10 pitches, nine of them sinkers, maybe eight of them he told you they were coming, and they could hit it, but they could only hit it on the ground.”
Quantrill made at least 80 appearances in four straight seasons, including 2002 and 2003 for Los Angeles when Tracy managed the Dodgers. In 2002, Quantrill went 5-4 with a 2.70 ERA in 86 games. He went 2-5 with a 1.75 ERA in 2003. He pitched 841 games in the majors from 1992 through 2005, going 68-78 with a 3.83 ERA.