Native San Diegan Chase Johnson signed with the Padres this winter with hopes of one day pitching in the major leagues.
Non-roster invitee, right-handed pitcher Chase Johnson is living the dream.
The San Diego Padres invited the minor league free agent to camp this winter with hopes that he could eventually contribute to the team in the bullpen.
In walking around camp, there are times when the pitcher is in complete awe. The native of San Diego (from Fallbrook) was a huge Padres fan growing up. Trevor Hoffman was the pitchers’ idol. Seeing the Hall-of-Famer in and around the camp has stunned Johnson at times.
“It is kind of surreal, honestly. It’s crazy,” Johnson said with a smirk. “I went to Padres games all the time as a kid. I remember when I was young, I got a Trevor Hoffman signed glove. He was my favorite player growing up. It is really cool having him around here.”
Despite the nostalgia of being in camp with the Padres, Johnson is there to work. He is focused and determined to earn a spot on the team. The versatility he brings could very well be useful to the Padres. The 6-foot-4 pitcher can pitch out of the pen and also spot start if needed. Johnson educates me on the fact he is currently stretched out and ready to go multiple innings if called upon to do so.
“I take pride in being able to do both. If you ask me to do it, I can do it. There are a lot more routines when you are a starter. Out of the bullpen, you just need to be able to get ready out of the fly. It is a big difference. But my arm is able to do both,” Johnson said.
The Giants drafted Johnson in the third round of the 2013 draft out of Cal Poly. The right-handed pitcher spent seven seasons in the minors, recording a 3.84 ERA in over 480 innings pitched. He never made it to the major leagues despite throwing in two different seasons at the Triple-A level.
His whole career has been a grind. Johnson elaborates on his career and how it has made him the pitcher he is today. “It is definitely a grind, especially at the lower levels. You start making your way up and get a couple of big league camps in, and you start to see what you are really working for. That gives you even more motivation to get to that big league level. The minor leagues are hard,” Johnson said.
The 28-year-old is close to his dreams. The pitcher admits there are some things he needs to rectify first. “Making my secondary offerings a little more consistent. My fastball has always been good. I have fastball command. The key is for me to work on the secondary,” Johnson admits. There is always something that needs to be refined if you are a professional pitcher.
Presently, Johnson has a ton of confidence in his changeup and how the pitch has progressed for him. “My changeup is doing really good. I think that is my second best pitch now. I just need to keep building off of that. I think everything will come together for me,” Johnson said.
In refining the pitch, the Rapsodo Machine and Edgertronic Cameras have assisted the right-hander. “The technology is a huge help to see the consistency of the pitch. It is something you can look at compared to when I first got drafted. It is nice to see the numbers behind what they are telling you. They have a full team to help us,” Johnson said. It is nice to see an older pitcher embrace the analytical movement. Johnson goes on to talk about the Padres staff and how they do a great job of providing analysts to help the pitchers learn what the data really means.
To make it through seven seasons in the minor leagues, you have to have passion for the game. Johnson certainly admires the game of baseball, as he discusses where his motivation comes from. “I think it is the love for the game. Ever since T-Ball, I have enjoyed going out there and playing. (The love) has grown, even more, the longer I have played. I think I just really enjoy playing. I want to go out there and have fun — compete and win,” Johnson said. In time, hopefully, those wins will come in his hometown uniform.