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Reliever Johnson looks to return to form with LA

After struggling in '17, ground-ball specialist going 'back to basics'
MLB.com @mi_guardado

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Shohei Ohtani was the main draw at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Saturday, but he wasn't the only player to make his Angels debut in the club's 6-5 win over the Brewers.

The Angels also got their first look at veteran reliever Jim Johnson, who entered the game in the third and pitched a perfect inning. Johnson, who was acquired from the Braves in November, is coming off a disappointing 2017 season in which he logged a 5.56 ERA and lost the closer job with Atlanta, but the Angels are hopeful the 34-year-old right-hander can return to form and become a key cog in the back end of their bullpen in 2018.

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Shohei Ohtani was the main draw at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Saturday, but he wasn't the only player to make his Angels debut in the club's 6-5 win over the Brewers.

The Angels also got their first look at veteran reliever Jim Johnson, who entered the game in the third and pitched a perfect inning. Johnson, who was acquired from the Braves in November, is coming off a disappointing 2017 season in which he logged a 5.56 ERA and lost the closer job with Atlanta, but the Angels are hopeful the 34-year-old right-hander can return to form and become a key cog in the back end of their bullpen in 2018.

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"I'm just trying to get back to basics," Johnson said Saturday. "Last year, I just had a hard time with being consistent locating my fastball, and everything kind of works off of that. When you're coming to the ballpark and it's a grind, it's not enjoyable. Having fun and getting back to basics is what I'm going to focus on. The rest of the stuff will kind of sort itself out."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Johnson, whose career ground-ball rate is nearly double the Major League average, said he is particularly looking forward to working with the Angels' defense, which now includes steady defenders in shortstop Andrelton Simmons, second baseman Ian Kinsler and third baseman Zack Cozart.

"The defense up the middle is unbelievable," Johnson said. "That's fine by me, being the contact pitcher that I am. The [American League] is going to be a [battle] this year, so I think being on a team like this, it's going to come down to the pitching. To be part of that, if I do my job, it's going to be that much more rewarding. I'm looking forward to the opportunity and the challenges that come with it."

Vladdy visits

Hall of Fame electee Vladimir Guerrero threw out the ceremonial first pitch to former Angels teammate Jose Molina on Saturday. Guerrero will become the first player to enter Cooperstown with an Angels cap this summer.

Video: MIL@LAA: Guerrero throws out the first pitch

Ramirez ready to go

JC Ramirez threw 25 pitches in his second live bullpen session of the spring on Saturday. The 29-year-old right-hander, who is coming off stem-cell therapy to treat a damaged elbow ligament, said he feels normal and is ready to make his Cactus League debut against the Giants on Thursday in Scottsdale.

Flippin' awesome

Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena delivered a signature bat flip in the first inning Saturday while doubling to right field off Brewers starter Chase Anderson in his first at-bat of the spring. Valbuena, who is projected to split time at first base with Albert Pujols this season, went 2-for-2 with a run scored before departing after the third inning.

Up next

Garrett Richards will make his first start of the spring on Sunday, when the Angels host the Padres at Tempe Diablo Stadium. First pitch is slated for 12:10 p.m. PT, and the game is live on MLB.TV.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Angels, Jim Johnson