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TON -- For all of his baseball life, Brian Johnson has been known as a two-way star. But after the University of Florida junior was selected by the Red Sox in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft as a pitcher, he will be able to focus specifically on that craft.
"About being just a pitcher, I've never really been just that in my life," Johnson said. "So I'm excited and I'm looking forward to just throwing, trying to get into a regular routine. I've done both my whole life, and I'm looking forward to doing one right now."
Johnson has more immediate things on his mind right now, as the Florida Gators are getting ready for the Super Regionals of the College World Series. Johnson said he's not sure yet which game he will start this weekend when the No. 1 Gators host North Carolina State in a best-of-three series on Saturday, Sunday and Monday (if necessary).
To get to where he needs to be, Johnson will need to command as many pitches as he can beyond his fastball. His slider and curveball are both developing weapons.
"Hopefully, I can throw both," he said. "I flip the curveball more as a strike-one pitch, and [I use] the slider later in the count, usually going for a strikeout in an area getting someone to chase. I'd say my curveball is a little more developed. I just developed a slider last year in college, so I'd say my curveball [is stronger] right now."
The changeup is another pitch Johnson is working on.
For the Gators this season, Johnson is 8-4 with a 3.56 ERA in 16 starts, holding opponents to a .242 average. He is hitting .310 with 12 doubles, five homers and 40 RBIs, and he is in the running for the John Olerud Award, presented to the nation's top two-way player.
Being drafted as a pitcher did not surprise him.
"I knew coming into the Draft that I was going to be [selected as] a pitcher," he said. "I had talked to most of the teams, and basically all of them said 'pitching,' which I was totally fine with. I've been fortunate to do both as long as I have. I'm grateful for what I've had."
Did Johnson expect to go higher than 31st?
"You know, I really had no expectations on where I was going to go," he said. "I'm just fortunate enough to be able to get drafted and have an opportunity to play with an organization like the Red Sox."