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Johnson trying to unlock power stroke

Utility man knows that consistency at plate is key to making roster
MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Micah Johnson feels that a better understanding of his mechanics will help him drive the ball more this season.

In the past, Johnson always displayed a lot of power during batting practice, but that power did not translate to power in the games. A reality that left Johnson scratching his head.

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Micah Johnson feels that a better understanding of his mechanics will help him drive the ball more this season.

In the past, Johnson always displayed a lot of power during batting practice, but that power did not translate to power in the games. A reality that left Johnson scratching his head.

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"In BP, everybody knows I hit balls into the upper deck wherever we go, but it didn't happen in the game because I wasn't able to hit different velocities and movements," Johnson said. "So what I've worked on now is not rotating so much. Not getting so much movement in my swing. Just kind of letting my hands be more free so that I can get to different pitches.

"I'm not spinning off the ball, and I'm not rotating my back leg as much. I guess I'm rotating using my core, but not necessarily my whole body. When you use your whole body to get to the inside pitch, you're going to hook it or get jammed. If I just use my hands to clear inside and just hit the away pitch deeper, that generates the power that way."

Johnson came to his realization while working with John Ramos, a former Major Leaguer who lives in Tampa.

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"It's kind of funny, because John was talking about this drill where he'd put the ball way in front of the plate to work on getting extension," Johnson said. "That really clicked with me working at [Tampa's] Palma Ceia Little League one night. My swing feels ready. Now I feel like I'm on those pitches."

Johnson, whom the Rays claimed off waivers from the Giants in November, has already shown some pop during Spring Training. He collected two doubles against the Red Sox on Saturday. Monday he went 0-for-1 with a walk against the Blue Jays.

Earlier in the spring, Rays manager Kevin Cash complimented Johnson for working with the outfielders then sticking around to make sure he took infield work as well. Because Johnson plays everywhere, he's hoping his flexibility will help him make the team.

"I want to be the guy who plays everywhere," Johnson said. "I want [Cash] to know, if he needs me in any situation, I can do that. That's why I take ground balls every day at third. Work on feeds on double plays at both of those positions. Just because I want him to know I'm able to do that. If [we're] in a pinch, he can count on me to do it."

To that end, Johnson arrived at Port Charlotte with three gloves. One for third base, one for the middle infield and one for the outfield.

Prior to the start of Spring Training, the Rays outrighted Johnson to Triple-A Durham to make room on the 40-man roster for Sergio Romo. Johnson doesn't see the move as any kind of stumbling block. He still believes he controls his destiny by how he plays.

Getting outrighted "didn't change anything," Johnson said. "I know if I come out here and hit .200, I'm not making the team if I'm on the 40-man, or not on the 40-man. If I come out here and do what I can do, play quality defense, play hard, run the bases really hard to take the extra base, they'll find a spot for me. I truly believe that. If you go out there and show [that] you can play, you're going to make the team."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays, Micah Johnson