GLENDALE, Ariz. – Adam Eaton sees Micah Johnson trying to win a job during spring training and he has two words of advice: Take care.
Eaton made every throw with everything he had and blew his elbow out trying to win a job at the Arizona Diamondbacks camp in 2013, and he knows Johnson had hamstring and knee issues in the minor leagues last year – as Eaton did in the majors. Sitting two chairs away in the White Sox clubhouse at Camelback Ranch, Eaton has been in Johnson’s ear about the importance of taking care of his body.
“He’s more explosive than I am on the basepaths,’’ Eaton said of the 24-year-old second baseman. “I’m trying to instill in him the lessons I learned last year.’’
The lesson is don’t wait till you’re hurting. Get in the cold tub before things begin to hurt.
“Hopefully we can kind of be buddies in the cold tub together and make sure we maintain ourselves and police each other when we’re tired and don’t want to do that,’’ Eaton said.
Johnson can also learn from shortstop Alexei Ramirez, whose locker is next to his. Ramirez has played 158 games in each of the last four years.
The advice has been well-received, Eaton said.
“We’re on the same page, both young guys trying to get ourselves established in this game,’’ Eaton said.
“I want to make sure he survives camp and his wheels are ready in September,’’ Eaton said.
With a .455 average (10-for-22) Johnson has done more than survive this spring. He has shown good range and his defense on routine plays has been clean (no errors), although he hasn’t had a ton of action to prove it.
“[Gordon] Beckham had a ton of balls the other day when he got in there,’’ Johnson noted. “You can’t make them hit it to you.’’
A point of emphasis for Johnson is to stay relaxed.
“I’ve worked on a lot,’’ Johnson said. “Missing routine balls [was the knock in the minors] but I feel comfortable with routine balls, that was my only issue. I like the way I turn the double play now. We’ve been working to make it a complete game.’’
“For all the question marks that are there, he has looked good,’’ manager Robin Ventura said Sunday. “He looks relaxed enough, feels like he can handle it. He’s got a lot of confidence, which is really the first thing you want to have defensively.
“He’s had a nice camp. I think he came in focused for winning the job and offensively he’s a tough out. He fights the whole time he’s up there.
“He’s seeing a lot of pitches, fouling off pitches, hitting the ball the other way. He knows what his game is, put the bat on the ball and run.’’
Johnson has had some big games this spring. He knows to leave those, as well as the bad ones, at the park.
“If you invest too much emotion in a 162-game season you’ll be an emotional train wreck,’’ he said.
And take it from Eaton: Not investing enough maintenance time in the training room could turn him into a physical wreck.
Everybody in the tub.