Micah Johnson's first four games as a major leaguer have been a mixed bag.
The offense, billed as Johnson's strength, has been there: He's 3-for-9 with a double. The defense, which was billed as perhaps his weakest attribute, is coming along. His aggression, though, has probably stood out the most, albeit in a negative way. He's been picked off twice, including while attempting to steal in Friday's home opener against the Twins.
It's all part of adjusting to life in the big leagues.
“Just the speed of the game, the cleanliness of the game. Guys are smart, guys are intelligent," Johnson said of his first impressions of the majors. "Yesterday a guy did an inside move first pitch after I stole second when he made contact, something I’ve never seen before. Good move, tip my cap to the guy. He did his job, guy’s just executing. They’re smart up here. So it’s good, it’s a chess match. It’s definitely different, that level.”
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That aggression is something that will need to be reined in a bit, or at least more strategically deployed. White Sox manager Robin Ventura knows that it's all a part of Johnson's game but that there's also learning to be done regarding game situation and who's coming up behind him.
“There’s a definite line between being aggressive and learning," Ventura said before Saturday's game. "But we are talking about a young player that is aggressive and been aggressive for a while, and you’re learning in the big leagues, there’s some guys with some spin moves and some savvy on the mound to be able to hold you. They’re aware of you, they’re aware that you’re there. I think even with him, you’ve got the kind of guys that are coming up behind you that with the way we haven’t scored runs, you don’t necessarily need to force it right there or something needs to break loose. He had a nice bunt to show that kind of speed. Early on, I think he’s being ultra aggressive on the field once he gets on the bases.”
As for the defense, it's something Johnson continues to work on. Fortunately, he's got a resource just a short walk across the clubhouse in Gordon Beckham. Beckham is back with the White Sox after a short stint with the Angels last season, and he said he's been talking with Johnson, providing advice to the team's second baseman of the present and future after he served in a similar role for the past several years.
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“He’s doing good. He’s working hard on it, and we have a lot of conversations about it," Beckham said. "If I see something I think he should hear, something like that, I’ll pipe in. But he’s doing a good job, he’s working hard. Joe and him are doing a good job making sure they get all their work in. I’m happy with what he’s done so far. And I think he’ll only continue to improve when he gets more comfortable.
“I think we’ve got a mutual thing going there. I told him to come to me if he has questions. And I told him, ‘If I see something I feel like you need to hear, I’m going to tell you.’ Because I want him to be as good as he can be. If he had an Achilles’ heel, it’s the defense, I guess, in terms of what he can work on the most. We talk about stuff like that. It’s just to make him better.”
The big leagues are certainly a different animal for Johnson, though the 24-year-old said that it is still baseball. That's true, but he also realizes this is the top rung on the game's ladder.
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“There’s some good challenges, there’s going to be things you’re not used to, adjustment periods and different stuff," Johnson said. "But just like when you go up any level in this game, there’s going to be different things you have to learn on the way. But I learn on the fly quickly.”
Johnson was again in the starting lineup Saturday, batting ninth, which is what he's done exclusively this season. But though it's not the most glamorous spot in the lineup, it's one that Johnson will happily hold. His job has nothing to do with putting up numbers, just putting up "W's."
“Just to get a win, find a way to help the team win that day. That’s pretty much it, that’s my job," Johnson said. "I’m in the nine-hole, it’s my first year, my job is to find a way to help the team win, not try to do too much, not try to put pressure on myself. If they need me to bunt a guy over, bunt a guy over that day. That’s my job.”