Kelly Johnson is moving his way back up to the top of the order.
The Toronto Blue Jays second baseman is slated to bat in the No. 2 spot when the season begins April 5 in Cleveland.
Although he has batted first or second for most of his major-league career, he says it doesn't matter to him where he hits.
“It ultimately comes down to how you're doing,” the 30-year-old from Austin, Texas, said. “If you can be a consistent hitter and be the best hitter you can be and you're doing everything right then I feel I fit in a number of spots.”
He batted sixth in 16 of his 32 starts for Toronto after he was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks last Aug. 23 in a trade for John McDonald and Aaron Hill. He was used as the No. 2 hitter twice.
He said his mindset doesn't necessarily change when he bats second. But he says the situations when he comes to bat are different compared to other places in the order.
“I think the opportunities are different,” he said. “In the two-hole, or up in the lineup, you're going to have more of those opportunities where you've got, like a runner at second nobody out, or a bunt situation, or a hit-and-run situation, or nobody on and you need to start the inning, you need to start a rally.
“You get more of those opportunities than you do, say, bases loaded, second and third, guy on second two outs, a guy on third, all those things. The opportunities are different, it's just the way the game is, that's why they line it the way they line it up.”
He bats left.
“I think that's another reason it's a good fit,” he said.
Johnson has plenty to work on at spring training regardless of where he hits in the order.
In 2010, he hit a career-high 26 homers and drove in 71 runs while batting .284 with a .370 on-base percentage.
He hit 21 homers with 58 RBIs in 2011 but his batting average dropped to .222 and his on-base percentage to .304. With Toronto he batted .270 with three homers, nine RBIs, and a .364 on-base percentage.
He is trying to change his approach to the one he had going into 2010.
“It's not like I was going into 2010 thinking I'm going to hit so many home runs,” he said. “I got really in a good groove and I had a good year. The next year I probably thought a lot more about how I did it and tried to kind of duplicate it rather than just do the same thing, kind of go in with the same approach of just making sure I'm in a position where I'm ready to hit the ball hard. I was thinking more where the ball was going to go.”
That is his focus this spring training, doing all the things that will enable him to drive the ball hard when he gets the right pitch to hit.
“I don't want to think about hitting home runs,” he said. “I don't have goals for home runs. I really only have goals for quality, consistent, at-bats and hitting the ball hard. I always just want to be in a position where I can do that.”
He says his main goal is just to be ready once the season starts.
“So in spring it's trying something here, trying something there and really trying to get a routine and putting myself in a good position to hit the ball hard,” he said.
Defence is something he continues to try to improve, particularly in starting the double play. But his throwing as the middle man in the double play is a strength.
Johnson played shortstop and left field before becoming a second baseman. He has a good, quick throw to first after taking the feed for the force at second.
“I'm not going to say it came natural,” he said. “But it's something I've always done well, like catch and get rid of a ball so when I moved to second it was something I was already pretty decent at. That's my best shot.
“I'm not going to tell anybody that I've got the best feet in baseball in the middle infield, because I haven't. But I have a good enough arm and I feel if I get enough on the ball I'll be able to turn my part of it.”
Former Atlanta second baseman Glenn Hubbard was first-base coach when Johnson was with the Braves and started to work with him one week after 2006 season ended throughout the off-season.
“He was really big for me,” Johnson said. “It was just understanding how to be the quickest, how to move your hands, how to position yourself, where to think about catching it, think about catching it in the middle of your body , think about getting your hands moving before you get to the ball so everything is ready to go. We just drilled it and drilled it and drilled it. I still do the same stuff that we worked on.”
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