DENVER -- You get one chance to make a first impression, and Erik Johnson's Padres debut wasn't the impression he was after. Johnson walked the first Rockies batter he faced in a Padres uniform, then walked the second one to cement that first look.He composed himself enough to retire Nolan
DENVER -- You get one chance to make a first impression, and Erik Johnson's Padres debut wasn't the impression he was after. Johnson walked the first Rockies batter he faced in a Padres uniform, then walked the second one to cement that first look.
He composed himself enough to retire Nolan Arenado, but then Carlos Gonzalez hit a pitch into the right-field stands for a three-run homer.
"Putting yourself behind like that, letting two free passes go and then first-pitch fastball to CarGo," Johnson said after the Padres' 5-3 loss, shaking his head at the memory. "When I came back after that first inning, I hit the reset button and collected my thoughts and myself and I went back out there. I wanted to display what I'm really all about and what I want to accomplish."
After the three-run first, he did find his form, ultimately lasting 4 2/3 innings and yielding a total of five runs, all earned, on nine hits and two walks while striking out three. He gave up a solo homer to Charlie Blackmon -- high off the right-field foul pole -- to lead off the fifth and saw another run come home on a Gonzalez bloop single to left in the fifth.
"After that first inning, I started dropping in more breaking stuff," Johnson said. "I had a tough time dropping the offspeed stuff early. Once I could change speeds and mix it up and go in on guys late, I got back on track and started rolling with the outs."
Pitchers who rely on breaking pitches need to adjust quickly at Coors Field, where the balls don't always respond in kind. Johnson didn't walk another batter after the first two he faced, and he showed his touch as he gained confidence.
"Throwing [the breaking stuff] for called strikes [was the key]," Johnson said. "Guys aren't going to swing if they can kind of exit out. So once I get strike one with the curveball and throw a slider for first pitch and 'get-me-overs,' they got to respect it."
Manager Andy Green admired the way Johnson battled, and he emphasized that he remains committed to giving Johnson the chance to show what he's got after four years of scattered cups of coffee with the White Sox.
"We said early on we were going to figure out who he was and commit to him for some time," Green said. "I don't know how long that process is. It would be remiss of me to answer that question completely right now, but part of the thought process all along was we acquired him to find out who he is. Let's figure that out."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver.