I've been in the post season games before. Unfortunately my record in the Division Series hasn't been good. I've pitched some good ballgames but lost some games, come to mind, the ones with Houston. The Angels are a good team, they do a lot of little things well, and it's not a surprise that we're coming back 1 1.
Where is your confidence now? There was some up and downs during the season; is your confidence, right at this point, at its highest for the season?
JOHNSON: Yeah, I would say so. I think the biggest thing; I think any player is going to have a lot of confidence when you're performing well. Any professional athlete, when you go out there and you're doing the things that you've become accustomed to doing, then you've got a comfort level. When you're not, you're probably frustrated and you're wondering why and you're answering questions.
I'm beyond that point now. Obviously I was not happy with the up and downs that I had, but, you know, I think any pitcher out there that didn't win 17 games would love to have 17 wins this year. It's funny that we say I had an off year, and still won 17 games.
So my level of confidence is up, but, you know, it only goes as far as how I'm pitching. I mean, I understand that I am here to get this team over the top, and with that, there's no making mistakes.
I made a few during the regular season, and unfortunately there's no room to make a lot of mistakes during post season.
You mentioned your record in the Division Series. It's such an odd number considering your career, is there something that you can put your finger on, a source of frustration for?
JOHNSON: Well, I've only been to the World Series one time so, that's why I'm 3 0 there, but I've been to the Division Series quite a few times. I think my record is 2 7 or 3 7.
If you look back at some of the games I've pitched, a game is a game, if you lose 1 0, then you just didn't pitch good enough. I pitched some quality ballgames, two of them with Houston, we lost both of those games. And then when I was with the Diamondbacks, the first year in '99, I threw 270 innings, so I was a little tired at the end of the year, the Mets beat me.
So there's no rhyme or reason, other than this year is a different year and I feel like there's a lot of reserved energy in my tank. I didn't throw nearly as many innings as I probably have in the past, about 225, still a lot, but I'm ready to go. There's no rhyme or reason for the Division Series record, but we'll get beyond that, and then I'm in waters that I'm extremely comfortable with?
How has pitching with this team where many times a player is judged solely on his last performance or two, been different from pitching on other teams throughout your career?
JOHNSON: Well, I think I'm no different, anywhere I've been, my games have been based, I'm only as good as my last start. So I don't think just because I've been here in New York that it's been any different. There's more of you, but everything that's being asked of me now has been asked of me in Houston and that's why I got traded there and that's why I was in Arizona and that's what I did in Seattle the first times I had the opportunity to do it.
So there's nothing being asked of me more; there's just more of you, that's all.
Has there been any adjustment?
JOHNSON: No. And we go back to day one when I came here, nothing is being asked of me that hasn't been asked of me before, so that's why I didn't get wrapped up in the rivalry. You know, every time I go out and pitch, it's a rivalry with that team because they want to beat me, and I want to beat them.
My career will be over soon enough and I want to accumulate a lot in this game, and you only have an opportunity once every five days. They don't come along very often when you're losing ball games, so that's why I have never cheated myself when I've gone out there to pitch whether it's the regular season or post season. I've pitched poorly in both situations, but I've pitched good in both situations. A lot of times, things are out of your control.
You were talking about earlier in the year when you were not pitching the way you wanted to and said that you were frustrated and wondering why, asking questions, can you explain the difference, or how are things different for you mentally or just in your life when you are not pitching the way you want to versus now when things are going the way you want to?
JOHNSON: Well, when I'm pitching the way I want to, I think it's pretty evident. When I'm not pitching you still go out there try and do the best you can, you're not getting the results and it's very evident. There's a handful of games this year that I wasn't getting the results, and I wasn't fooling anybody.
Then on the other hand, the last month and a half or so, I've been able to be consistent, and that's what I said all along. I had not been consistent and the reason being was, because of my mechanics. Don't ask me why. I guess I feel very fortunate that while I was in Arizona, I never really had any mechanical problems, until I got over here; or, they didn't last as long.
I feel very comfortable with where I'm at now. The team is playing well. The team, more so, is in a situation that they have come to be very familiar with. I'm not a stranger to post season, but this franchise is obviously no stranger to post season. When I first got here, they said there's two seasons and I go, really? They said, the regular season and post season. And we all know how it came down to the last few games to whether there would be a second season so, that just goes to show you, there's no guarantee.
So when someone says there's two seasons here, you kind of look at them and go, well, let's get through the first season and see if there's a second season. But that's how confident and that's the type of history that is here that I've always respected and admired.
Just to clarify, I was asking also, when things are going well for you.
JOHNSON: Well, you're not going to be able to tell when things are going well or when they are going bad. I'll go out there and continue to try and pitch the way I am pitching good, but when I'm dominating, I don't know really what you're asking other than I go out there and do the best I can. You're not going to really know whether I'm trying to pitch I'm pitching poorly or pitching bad or good, other than if you look up on the scoreboard. My animation and adrenaline comes and goes. You're not going to know, I could be jumping up and down and giving up seven runs, or I could be very calm and subdued and walk off the mound throwing a no hitter.
That being said, can you anticipate what the environment is going to be like tomorrow, first home playoff game, the Yankee fans make a huge deal about this, and you don't want to get too excited but can you anticipate what it's going to be like before you start pitching?
JOHNSON: I think it will probably be like opening night. Once again, when I'm pitching, the crowd, and I don't mean this in a disrespectful way, but in games that I've pitched in Arizona, the crowd was really more animated on the days that I pitched than probably any other day than I would witness. And I really fed off of that.
At times this year, I felt that with the Yankee crowd. But I think as a visiting player, I felt more hostility, and I fed off of that. When they booed me, you'll hear most athletes will dig down a little bit deeper when they are getting booed, because that's a sign of respect.
And so if they want to boo me, then boo me, or cheer me, but do something, because I feed off that have and I have pretty much my whole career. So I don't think, to answer your question, I'm assuming that it will be a lot like Opening Day, and it was exciting. This will be exciting. It's my first post season start as a Yankee.
The second half of the year, things really seemed to pick up for you, do you know when or can you pinpoint a point where mechanically things seemed to click and what happened?
JOHNSON: I think it was probably right before we played Kansas City here. I had watched some video and a couple of games that I had not pitched well and realized on a split screen with some Arizona footage and some tape here that mechanically some things were not the same as they had been. And it was my project and Mel's and John Flaherty's to try to correct this and get some consistency again. The reason I wasn't consistent was because my arm angle was dropping down. The reason my arm angle was dropping down was because I was rushing towards home plate. The reason I was rushing towards home plate was because I wasn't staying back over the rubber. It was just a chain reaction.
When everything has gone well, you see the scoreboard light up with my velocity, throwing 91, 92. I've thrown 99 several times this year, but that's only because everything is going towards home plate. My slider is sharper now because my arm angle is at the correct angle.
Like I said, for whatever reason, the first year in a long time that I've had mechanical problems. The years in Arizona, we all know what those were. I wouldn't have had them if I would have had mechanical problems. I'm glad that I was able to correct them or we were able to correct them; I wish it would have been sooner, but I'm thankful that it got corrected because it made a season, and I was able to still put together a quality season and pitch some games that got us to where we needed to be.
Now I feel extremely comfortable with where I'm at with my mechanics, but obviously I wish it would have happened sooner. But there's a lot of things I wish I could change this year.
Whatever questions there may have been about your post season record were certainly answered in 2001. Do you think that most good pitchers, good players, given enough opportunities in the post season, will come through, or do you think that some respond better to pressure than others? Bonds would be another example, until 2002, he had a pretty poor post season record and then he had a spectacular one.
JOHNSON: Well, I suppose if you do something long enough, you'll be able to put numbers up there. Look at Bernie any and Jeter's numbers, they have more plate appearances than anybody in World Series history if I'm not mistaken.
So given the opportunity, you're going to have more times to succeed, or fail. On the other side of that, if you're only going to post season one time in your career, the Division Series, let's say, and you pitch two games and you're 0 2, does that mean you're a poor post season pitcher; I don't think that's really the case.
I think you can pitch some quality ballgames, we all know, in post season and still lose 1 0. That doesn't mean you pitched a poor game. But I did have given the opportunity to pitch several post season games. Your ability, eventually, things will finally come together, especially when you're in a season like in 2001 where I started off in a Division Series and I think I may have lost against St. Louis, and then in the NLCS, I shut out the Braves in one game and then won the clinching game against Glavine, and now you go on to the World Series.
What I'm getting at is we're getting more games and opportunities to pitch in and feeding off of that and getting more opportunities to pitch in the post season. Then I go to the World Series and pitch a shutout in Game 2 and Game 6 I pitch well, and now I'm feeding off that. And now I'm asking if I can be in the bullpen in Game 7 and I say mentally, yeah, sure, I don't know how my body is going to feel and I wake up the next day, and the bottom line is, if you're given enough opportunity, and that opportunity being given in a short period of time, for example, 2001, good things are going to happen. I mean, I got on a roll, I think it was what, 5 1, my record in post season.
But if we had not gotten past the Division Series, would I have been 0 1? So I guess the bottom line is, if you're a good enough pitcher and you're being given enough opportunity in a single season or over your career, the numbers will usually reflect how good of a pitcher you've been.
You mentioned John Flaherty, can you talk about some of the qualities in him as a catcher and why the two of you have found so much success together?
JOHNSON: I think John does a lot of his homework, does a lot of homework on my games, watches and analyzes a lot of the opposing hitters we're going to face, watches videotape of past hitters and finding their weaknesses, constantly reminds me of mechanical things that I'm trying to remind myself of. As much as I've always admired all of the catchers that I've had, probably around 12 or 13 over my 17 year career, I've always admired a catcher that is less worried about what he does at the plate and more worried about what he does behind the plate. And I've told John that on a couple of occasions this year, not games that he caught me.
If you recall the game he caught Wang in Detroit, and I think we won that Game 1 0, if I'm not mistaken, it was a day game and I believe it was Flaherty that caught that game, and he didn't have a great game at the plate, but it was also a game where he was kind of erratic on the mound and walked a few. I told him after the game, you know, I know you want to get your hits, every catcher wants to get their hits, that's how you're evaluated, but more importantly, you got him through the game today and that was a big game for us.
So it's not necessarily what he does for me but what he does whenever he's out there, and I've always appreciated that in a catcher. Sometimes I don't think catchers get that respect that, yeah, they went 0 for 4, but they got that pitcher through the game, whether he didn't have good stuff or whether he was hurting physically or whatever. But those are the qualities that I see in Flaherty.
Are there particular hitters in the Angels lineup that bother you?
JOHNSON: I'm not going to say that they bother me. I mean, I've pitched against them twice now. I guess once again, you go back, you're only as good as your last start against that team and my last start was here at the stadium against them and I didn't pitch as well as I had the first time at their stadium.
But I'll be prepared tomorrow if we get the game in. The great opportunity or the advantage I have is we face them back in July I think or whatever it was, and since then, I'm not the same pitcher as I was against a lot of teams that I didn't pitch well against.
So I think that's the one thing that I'll have going for me is my slider much better now, my velocity is up, my control is there, and I'm feeling a lot more confident about where I'm at in today's game than I was, say, maybe a month and a half, two months ago. It's not to say that I didn't have good games in, but I'm not as consistent as I am now.
So it should be interesting, because they definitely have some quality hitters, Vlad Guerrero I faced on numerous occasions in the National League when he was with Montreal and I was with Arizona. Finley, I know what he's capable of doing. Figgins, you have to keep off, we saw that. That's one reason why Moose had success in the first game. And then you they just do a lot of little things, Figgins and Cabrera you have to keep off base because their either going to hit and run or steal or double steal. You have to slow their game down, and I don't mean by getting ahead in the count and shutting their hitters down.
With rain in the forecast for the next couple of days, can you talk about your approach and dealing with the elements, whether you have to pitch tomorrow or end up pitching on Saturday?
JOHNSON: That's nothing I can really do about that. I can only prepare for the game being tomorrow and I have no control over what happens with Mother Nature. If it rains, it rains. Hopefully it won't rain much and in the early day and the baseball gods will part the clouds and we'll get in a good game tomorrow.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.