Very little can top the joy of a first-time call-up to the major leagues for someone who has labored in an Independent League. Seven players have gotten that thrill this season.
The latest is D. J. Johnson, a right-handed relief pitcher who turned a not-so-young (well, for baseball players anyway) 29 last week. This native of Beaverton, OR got the call to join the Colorado bullpen staff as the Rockies fight for a spot in the National League playoffs.
This 6-foot-4 hurler may not have gotten this chance without spending more than half of the 2014 season with the Traverse City (MI) Beach Bums of the Frontier League (0-3, 14 saves, 1.30 ERA in 24 appearances) after he had been idled for a full season by the injury bug.
Minnesota picked up his contract, then it was on to the Los Angeles Angels and Colorado farm systems the last three seasons, 2018 in the Pacific Coast League when Johnson saved 18 games and went 3-4, 3.90 in 50 games out of Albuquerque's bullpen. These stats probably won the promotion for him: 84 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 55 innings. Counting two seasons in three years before his idle campaign, he has been in five major league organizations.
24 NOW ACTIVE IN MAJORS
With all-PCL shortstop Ildemaro Vargas (Bridgeport, Atlantic League) also recalled by Arizona for the postseason scramble and righty Jon Edwards getting the same opportunity in the Cleveland bullpen plus the return of a few other players who have shuttled between the majors and the minor leagues this season, 24 former Independent players are wearing big-league uniforms this month. Edwards is far from a major league newby, but this right-hander has logged Indy time with Alpine of the Pecos League and San Angelo of the former North American League.
THE OTHER FIRST-TIMERS
Major league debuts also have been earned this season by pitchers Jeremy Bleich with Oakland (Somerset, Atlantic League), Ryan Bollinger with the New York Yankees (Trois-Rivieres, Can-Am League; St. Paul and Winnipeg, American Association; and Windy City, Frontier), Brandon Mann of Texas (Southern Maryland and Lancaster, Atlantic, and Fargo, American Association), Trevor Richards of Miami (Gateway, Frontier), Robert Stock of San Diego (New Jersey, Can-Am), and Marcus Walden of Boston (Lancaster). Bollinger was active but did not get into any games while Richards and Stock remain on active rosters.
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Wednesday, September 05, 2018
A NEW INDEPENDENT FACE GETS INTO N.L. WEST RACE
Former chief spokesman for Major League Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth. Six years as publicity director for the Kansas City Royals, and a background in newspaper, radio and television. Started Wirz & Associates, a sports PR and consulting firm, in 1985. Has written extensively on Independent Baseball since 2003.