Steve Johnson is enjoying his first off-season as a hometown hero. After seemingly spending years in the minor leagues, the son of former Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson was a late contributor to the team’s success.
He was 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 late season games, four of them starts.
The 25-year-old says he’s been busy going to charity events at his high school, St. Paul’s in suburban Baltimore.
“Other than that, I stay pretty low-key. Still go to the Ravens games and everything and blend in,” Johnson said on Tuesday at the Orioles annual Christmas party.
Johnson’s name has been mentioned in trade talks, and he knows that come this spring, a job is hardly guaranteed.d
"I know I'm just going to have to go through spring training and fight for a spot anyway. There were a lot of guys last year, so I know what it's going to be like. They’re going to bring a lot of guys and we're all going to be fighting for a spot. Makes it more fun, makes it competitive,” Johnson said.
“I know what I did last year gave me some confidence, so I'll just go in with that same confidence and hopefully have a good spring."
Johnson is one of the few Orioles who live in the area full-time, and he’s the only native Baltimorean. He’s noticed a lot more talk around town this year.
“Oh yeah, definitely. Going to the Ravens games, I get recognized here and there, and they're just excited for next year. That's what everyone says. And being from here and knowing what the last 14 years have been like, to have the fans kind of have our backs and be excited for next season, that's going to make for a fun start to next year, and hopefully the whole year."
Johnson had two brief recalls before he stuck with the team last year.
“I worked hard to get where I was last year, and it's not over yet for me. Getting to the big leagues was a goal, and when you get there, you want to stay there. My goals have changed. I worked really hard,” Johnson said.
Last spring training was Johnson’s first. He was far away from the veterans. Next spring, he’ll have a more favorable location.
“Getting the corner locker was like starting at the low levels in the minors. It's the way it is and you've got to work your way up and I did that, but I don't want to be one and done, so I'm going to work hard and stay there," he said.
If there’s no trade, Johnson will be grouped with Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Tommy Hunter, pitchers who could start or pitch in long or short relief.
"You always want competition. It makes you work harder. Sometimes it's nice to earn your way and have a starting gig or a bullpen gig, but when you don’t have it, you know you have to work hard. You've always got to work hard,” Johnson said.
“Just having to compete, and knowing a lot of the guys, knowing what they did last year and knowing they want to compete for different jobs, that's what's going to make spring training fun. That's what it's all about. You're always competing, whether it's the season or spring training or the off-season.”