April 24, 2008 – Adam Johnson Talks April 21, 2008Posted by atlanticleaguenews in Uncategorized.
Johnson Excited To Start For Blue Crabs: Former Minnesota Twins first round draft pick Adam Johnson has been down the independent baseball road before, pitching for the San Diego Surf Dawgs of the Golden Baseball League in 2005.
Then, he lasted 12 games before being picked up by the Oakland Athletics.
Now he’s back, but this time in the Atlantic League with the expansion Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.
“I got a call from the GM a couple of months ago, asking if I’d be interested in coming to the Atlantic League,” Johnson told me.
As for one of the owners? Well, Johnson’s already met Brooks Robinson.
“I’ve always looked up to him, he’s probably the best third baseman of all time,” said Johnson, who met the Hall of Famer at a fantasy camp.
Not only is Johnson looking forward to playing in the Atlantic League — he said he knows it’s the best independent league in the country — he’s also looking forward to getting the opportunity to take the ball every fifth day.
“There’s a big mentality difference from when you’re starting compared to when you’re relieving,” he said, saying he welcomed the chance to start.
And when those starts are over, he’ll be handing the ball to manager Butch Hobson, just another reason why he decided to play for Southern Maryland this year.
“It’s always helpful when you have someone with that kind of experience making the decisions,” he said.
Johnson told me there’s a lot of talent on this team, and that he thinks they’ll be able to compete with the other seven teams.
With the well-documented struggles of expansion teams in this league, this particular story will start to unfold on Friday night, when the Blue Crabs play their inaugural game in Somerset.
Bluefish Sign Hoorelbeke, Pickering: Had heard about this a few days back, but now it’s official. The Bridgeport Bluefish have signed 1B Calvin Pickering and re-signed Jesse Hoorelbeke.
Pickering is a former big leaguer, who has been rumored to be coming to this league for years now. He’s played for the Orioles, Reds, Red Sox and Royals. He last played in the Northern League last season.
And Hoorelbeke, well…he was the league MVP last season, and returns from a short stint in affiliated ball with the Angels organization. – Mike Ashmore
Newark Bears Media Day Notebook: For the first time since 2003, the Newark Bears are coming into the season as defending champs. No team in Atlantic League history has won back-to-back titles, but with key returning players and some big-name new ones, the Bears have a strong shot.
Here are some notes:
– The Bears may be aiming for back-to-back championships, but pitcher J.J. Trujillo is gunning for a three-peat.
Trujillo, a former big leaguer with the San Diego Padres, started the 2007 season with Newark. After just 11 games, the Philadelphia Phillies signed the right-hander and he split the year between Double-A Reading and Class-A Clearwater. After winning a championship in Clearwater, Trujillo asked for his release to rejoin Newark for the playoffs.
“I loved this team while I was here,” Trujillo said. “I had such a great time and wanted to be apart of this post season.”
After the Bears won it all, Trujillo re-signed with the Phillies, but was released this spring.
– Pitcher Edwin Almonte is living with his father in New York City this season. When asked if any of the guys have asked him to show them around the Big Apple, Almonte laughed and said not yet.
Almonte complimented the Bears’ staff for putting together, what looks like, a competitive team this season.
“It looks like we have a lot of good players and I’m looking to have a really good year,” Almonte said.
– I really enjoyed my chat with Will Cunnane. I see a feature story in this guy.
The guy spent four years in the big leagues and was sold on coming to the Atlantic League by former Bridgeport Bluefish pitcher T.J. Mathews. After just two starts with the Bluefish in 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals signed the 15-year veteran.
“This league was a great way for me to keep playing, and keep in shape,” Cunnane said. “I got back so quick, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Cunnane could have probably played anywhere in the league this year, but chose Newark because of the short commute from his New York home.
As for hanging out with Mathews, it’s not going to happen. Mathews had been working at a baseball academy in Bridgewater, NJ, but has since moved out of the area to start a family.
Other Cunnane notes: He said the clubhouse atmosphere in the Atlantic League is exactly the same as in the minors. The righty said he’s fully recovered from torn labrum and rotator cuff surgery and is ready to go.
– I really like outfielder Val Majewski’s chances of getting picked up this season. He has age (27) on his side, talent (former Baltimore Orioles Minor League Player of the Year) and has played in the big leagues.
The New Jersey native doesn’t know why the Birds released him so late this spring, especially when he put up solid numbers. He’s excited to play ball and said he’s in great shape to start the year.
– New first baseman Randall Simon was not with the team yesterday. He’s been working out in Miami and is expected to join the club today. Majewski was going to start the year at first before Simon signed, but now he’ll move to the outfield.
– Manager Wayne Krenchicki said there’s a possibility that first baseman Victor Rodriguez could rejoin the team this season. He’s in Mexico right now and may come back once the season is done there. Krenchicki considers Rodriguez and Javier Colina two of the biggest losses the team had this off-season.
– Krenchicki has heard good things from the Phillies about former pitcher Gary Knotts. He believes Knotts will be the first one called up if someone goes down in their pen.
– Mike Just will start the season out of position, playing third base.
– As for going back-to-back: “That would be very special,” Krenchicki said. “It’s hard to do in this league, but it’s possible.”
– All the players I talked with raved about how nice it was to have spring training in their home park. It helped them get used to the area and they couldn’t have been happier about the weather.
Camden Adds Two Former Big Leaguers: The Camden Riversharks today signed right-handers Brian Lawrence and Ryan Drese.
Lawrence spent 168 games in the majors with the San Diego Padres and New York Mets. In fact, Lawrence made six starts for the Mets last season, going 1-2 with a 6.83 and 18 strikeouts.
Drese has 105 games of big league experience with the Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals. He won 14 games in 2004 and 10 games in 2002.
In 2002, Drese was involved in the deal that brought Travis Hafner from the Rangers to Cleveland. Also in that deal: York Revolution pitcher Aaron Myette. – Scott Stanchak
Ashmore Note: Drese pitched in the first big league game I ever covered. It was Rangers @ Phillies on June 7, 2005. Two real nice signings for the Sharks. Two legit big league starters.