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The Globe and Mail

Jays' Kelly Johnson aims to rebound from roller-coaster season

Toronto Blue Jays infielder Kelly Johnson catches a ground ball during practice at their spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla., on Thursday.


Baseball's spring training has a leisurely pace, with players jogging from station to station, fielding a ball here, tracking down a lazy pop fly there.

Some of the players expend more energy racing into the dining hall after the bats and balls have been put away.

The tempo suits Kelly Johnson just fine.

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"The game was just moving really fast and I wasn't slowing it down," the second baseman of the Toronto Blue Jays said of a hurly-burly 2011 season that included a trade and a drop in offensive production.

"The whole season was a constant struggle to try and slow everything down. Sometimes this game will get you and 85 miles per hour looks like 105 and it seems like every ball is hit at you when you're not ready. There's always something that can humble you."

Johnson, 29, was traded to the Blue Jays in late August from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Aaron Hill and John McDonald.

He was hitting just .209 at the time and coming off a season in which he popped 26 home runs and batted .284.

In 33 games with the Blue Jays, Johnson managed to bat .270 but it wasn't enough to remove the sour taste from an otherwise disappointing season.

Johnson is hoping that putting in the work in spring training with the team you're heading into the regular season with will increase his comfort level significantly.

"I think that's a no brainer," he said. "Spring training is that time where you get to know so many things about your teammates, about your coaches and they get to know you. When you don't get to explore that and you have to jump right in, especially at the tail end, you keep an eye forward on the off-season.

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"And now it's an eye forward on what's going to happen this year and all the positives."

Blue Jays coach John Farrell said he is eyeing Johnson as the No. 2 hitter in the lineup this season, counting on him to set things up for Jose Bautista and Adam Lind.

No doubt Farrell is eying the .364 on-base percentage that Johnson finished last season with, fourth highest on the club.

Johnson said it matters not to him where he bats, just as long as he does.

"I'm not going to worry about where and when,": he said. "I just want to be in there, I want to perform enough to be in there every day and I want to focused on one pitch and one at-bat. Just win each at-bat as much as possible and do what I can right there and let the rest of it take care of itself.

"I'm not going to worry about where my name is written in the lineup and I'm not going to worry about anything. I think if I can do that, the skills and the numbers will put me in a position to help this team win."

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