Mike Johnson (johnsmi02)
Michael Keith Johnson
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 175 lb.
- High School Salisbury Composite High School
- Debut April 6, 1997
- Final Game April 24, 2001
- Born October 3, 1975 in Edmonton, AB CAN
While in high school, Mike Johnson played volleyball in addition to baseball. . He was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 17th round of the 1993 amateur draft. He played in the Blue Jays organization from 1993 to 1996, reaching AA with the Hagerstown Suns that last year. He had a solid season that year, going 11-8, 3.15 with 155 strikeouts in 163 innings. When the Blue Jays failed to add him to their 40-man roster the following winter, he was snatched by the San Francisco Giants in the December 1996 Rule V Draft, then immediately sold to the Baltimore Orioles.
Johnson played in the majors from 1997 to 2001, first with the Orioles in 1997, then with the Montreal Expos later that same year after a trade for Everett Stull. He went back to the minor leagues for the next two seasons in AA in 1998 and in AAA in 1999, only making brief appearances on the mound for the Expos both years. While he showed decent stuff during that period, overall his results were poor: he was 7-11 with an ERA over 5.00 between AA and AAA in 1998, and 6-12, 5.39 for the AAA Ottawa Lynx the following season. He did not do much better in the majors, going 2-6, 6.83 in his season spent in the Show in 1997, where he was clearly overmatched but had to be kept on the major league roster or be returned to the Blue Jays, and a combined 0-2, 11.46 in his 5 outings for the Expos in 1998 and 1999.
Johnson started 2000 in AAA and did a lot better, going 2-0, 2.10 in 5 starts. He was called up to Montreal in May, when the team's pitching staff imploded under the weight of injuries, and remained in the bigs for the rest of the season. Alternating between the starting rotation and long relief, he gave the Expos over 100 innings of work, something the team was desperate for, but with a poor 6.39 ERA and 53 walks in spite of a decent won-loss record (5-6). In 2001, Johnson was out of options in spring training, and manager Felipe Alou decided to take him north as the last man in his bullpen. He fared decently, posting a 4.76 ERA in 11⅓ innings, but was sent down to AAA Ottawa in late April, then traded to the Texas Rangers for Darwin Cubillan on May 8.
Mike Johnson kicked around AAA from 2001 to 2004, bouncing from organization to organization and filling the role of occasional starter and long reliever, pitching decently but never well enough to obtain another shot in the majors. In 2004, the Montreal Expos signed him again to round out their staff with the AAA Edmonton Trappers, with the understanding that he would be made available to Team Canada for the 2004 Olympics (Jeremy Ware was also signed as a back-up outfielder under similar terms). He was the most experienced pitcher on the Canadian staff that summer, but the team fell tantalizingly short of a medal, finishing fourth in the tournament.
After that, Johnson was out of organized baseball. He played briefly for his hometown Edmonton Cracker-Cats in the independent Northern League, but his attempt to come back to the majors were stopped by Tommy John surgery. Still under the age of 30, Johnson decided to rehab for two years to give baseball another shot. In 2007, he signed with the Seibu Lions for $3 million. The move backfired as he was 1-4 with a 4.85 ERA, battling elbow problems and diabetes.
He was on Team Canada for the 2007 Baseball World Cup. In five relief appearances, he allowed one earned run in 5 IP. He was 0-1 with a 4.82 ERA in the 2008 Olympics, pitching well in a no-decision against Hyun-jin Ryu and South Korea but getting knocked out of the water by the Taiwan national team; most of the Taiwan players were familiar with Johnson from his work in the CPBL. Johnson was much more effective in the 2008 CPBL, winning league MVP honors. He led the league with a 20-2 record, 7 wins ahead of runner-up Lou Pote and his 2.45 ERA was second to Yu-Cheng Liao. He struck out 107, 4th behind Fu-Te Ni, Ryokan Kobayashi and Chi-Wei Lin.
Johnson's success overseas brought him to Team Canada's attention again in time for the 2009 World Baseball Classic. With the withdrawal of all of Canada's ace starting pitchers (Ryan Dempster, Rich Harden, Jeff Francis and Erik Bedard), Johnson found himself as one of the few pitchers on the staff with Major League experience. Manager Ernie Whitt gave him the ball for Canada's opening game against Team USA in Toronto on March 7th. He did alright in the circumstances, keeping his team in the lead for three innings before giving up home runs to Kevin Youkilis and Brian McCann in a three-run 4th inning; he still showed unexpected poise against a power-packed line-up and in front of a crowd of more than 50,000 as Canada lost, 6-5.
Johnson returned to Korea in 2009 with the SK Wyverns. He did not do well, allowing 4 runs in 1 1/3 IP and being released after two games, replaced by Ken Kadokura. He then bounced back to Taiwan with the La New Bears. Johnson was only 2-2 with a 6.58 ERA in 5 games for the Bears, then decided to leave despite the Bears' wishes; his decision was partly based on performance and partly due to the birth of a daughter.