Johnson rising through Indians farm system

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Spring training has come and gone and Opening Day is less than 24 hours away. The Cleveland Indians, who have won the American League Central division the last three years (2016, 2017, 2018), will open the season in Minneapolis against the Minnesota Twins.

Former New Mexico State standout, Daniel Johnson, will not be on the Indians Opening Day roster, but he has made a case this spring to be on their short list of possible call-ups later this summer.

He’s a terrific kid, said Indians manager Terry Francona. He’s a hard worker and we love his tools.

Johnson spent the better part of spring training in big league camp for the first time in his career, before being reassigned to minor league camp on March 15. He hit .259 (7-27) with two home runs and nine runs batted in, while scoring eight runs for the Indians in Cactus League play.

It’s nice to know they are actually watching me, said Johnson. They care about their minor league guys and to hear that, it makes me want to go even harder.

Johnson has been going hard his whole career. He was cut at NMSU as a pitcher, spent some time playing junior college ball, before returning to the Aggies under head coach Brian Green. Johnson was named WAC Player of the Year in 2016.

D.J. is a special player. He has a special work ethic and he is a guy we expect to see in the major leagues, said Green. It would be our first position player in the history of New Mexico State baseball to reach the major leagues.

If it wasn’t for him giving me the opportunity, I probably wouldn’t be here, said Johnson. The credit goes to him. He gave me the opportunity to play two years there and now I’m here.

Despite not breaking camp with the Indians, Johnson’s focus is to continue to improve and collect as many at-bats as possible in the minor leagues.

I never take no as an answer, said Johnson. I’ve always been told, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that, and this might not work.’ You know what, at some point it did work out and I just keep trying to push forward no matter what the circumstances are. I’m here now.

We’ve loved having him in camp, said Francona. I mean, there’s a lot to like with him.

Johnson will continue to workout in Arizona through the week. He will then likely land in Triple-A Columbus or back to Double-A Akron.

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