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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tigers get first look at Jim Johnson in action; Parrish: 'I thought he was fine'

TOLEDO, Ohio — It’s hard to properly assess a performance, if you have no baseline by which to judge.

Even though Jim Johnson’s numbers in his first outing with the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate were not stellar — two hits, two runs, one throwing error — it’s hard to put that in perspective, given that it’s the first time he’d thrown in front of the Mud Hens staff.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what kind of stuff I was going to see, command. He was fine. I thought he was fine,” said manager Larry Parrish, after Johnson threw 22 pitches (15 for strikes) in two-thirds of an inning Friday night against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at Fifth Third Field in Toledo.

“I don’t know how he normally pitches, if he normally throws a lot of off-speed.”

As an organization, the Tigers are just getting to know Johnson, who they signed to a minor-league deal Tuesday after he was designated for assignment after his last outing on July 23, then released on Aug. 1.

They got their first look Friday.

Trying to put the past four months behind him, Johnson got a clean inning to work with, starting the eighth, despite starter Kyle Ryan having “some pitches left,” according to Parrish. He was clocked between 91 and 94 mph on the fastball, sitting most frequently at 93.

• Cameron Rupp, hitting .138, lined Johnson’s first pitch into the right-field corner for a single.

• Clete Thomas attempted a bunt, and after one foul, got it down. It went right to Johnson, who whirled and threw toward second base, attempting to get the lead runner, Rupp. It sailed wide of shortstop Hernan Perez, and into center field.

“He didn’t throw bad tonight. First guy got a hit. Then he has the bunt. We didn’t handle throw. The ball tailed and he (Perez) was flat-footed,” Parrish said. “That set it up first and third. Next play, you get the ground ball, and inning over.”

• Instead, the next play was a grounder to short — a likely double play ball, had it not been a scoreless tie — by Cesar Hernandez, and Perez went home to get the lead runner, keeping it tied. Six pitches in, and Johnson had two runners on and one out.

• Freddy Galvis got ahead 3-1, took a strike, fouled off a 3-2 pitch, then lined a shot into right-center field to double home two runs.

• After getting ahead of Maikel Franco with two ugly swings-and-misses on the breaking ball, Johnson had to throw seven more pitches before putting Franco away, getting him to ground out to short.

That’s when Parrish went and got Johnson, replacing him with Melvin Mercedes.

“He was supposed to throw 20-25. Pitch count was right in between there,” Parrish said. “He wanted to throw to the next hitter. Understandable. But I told him ‘I got my orders.’”

Johnson is slated to pitch again on Sunday, then again on Wednesday, possibly two innings, but Parrish has no timetable after that.

“The thing up there, who knows? He could throw Sunday and be gone. I don’t know. I don’t have any idea what they’re thinking,” the manager said. “We just do what they say.”

Expect his first couple of outings, at least, to be the coaching staff at Toledo gathering information and getting a feel for Johnson as a pitcher, before they can truly delve into any 'fixes' he might need.

And before they can assess whether or not he can help the big-league club. 


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