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Fate determines Johnson's big league debut

Fate determines Johnson's big league debut

Fate determines Johnson's big league debut
DENVER -- The weather blew Alan Johnson's way when the Rockies were rained out of their second game in New York on Tuesday. After playing a makeup doubleheader Thursday, the Rockies needed a pitcher rested enough to start Sunday's game, and Johnson got the call, setting up his big league debut.

Johnson joined the team in time for the second game of the twin bill and has been on call in the 'pen in case the Rockies needed extra help. Jhoulys Chacin's complete-game shutout Friday kept the bullpen phone from ringing and ensured Johnson's first appearance would be as a starter, the role he's filled for all but five of his 153 Minor League appearances.

"I've always been told, 'Your role in the big leagues will probably be as a reliever of some sort,' but if I can start, that's what I'm going to do," Johnson said. "This is my dream. Growing up, that's what I always wanted to do, and I felt like I was good enough to do it. At any point, starter, reliever, whatever."

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The 27-year-old right-hander has made one start in Triple-A Colorado Springs this year, pitching five innings and allowing no earned runs on two hits and a walk while striking out three. The Rockies see him as a flexible enough pitcher to be able to help the club in any number of capacities, and though he was only in Major League camp briefly in Spring Training, he made a lasting impression on manager Jim Tracy.

"He's a very, very competitive guy that will indoctrinate himself to exactly the philosophy that we've been working from since last year, getting after hitters and attacking hitters," Tracy said. "He's got an excellent sinker, and as a result of that, he can pitch off of that with a couple of breaking balls -- his curveball and slider.

"I really think this kid is going to come out here and make a statement for himself, I really do. He's a courageous enough guy. He will not back off, I know that for a fact."

After winning 10 games in each of the last two seasons for Colorado Springs, Johnson said the key for him this spring was to get the release point back from his first couple years of professional baseball. He's known for his control, and the Rockies expect to see him in the zone Sunday.

"I'm obviously not a power pitcher, but I sink the ball and get hitters out front," Johnson said. "I throw offspeed, move it in and out, slow their bats down, speed them up -- go out and pitch. I would love to hit 96 [mph], but that's not me. It never has been really. I've just always been able to locate and make pitches when I need to."

With his parents and some friends coming to town to watch his debut, he knows he'll be excited when he toes the rubber Sunday, but after two years in Colorado Springs, pitching at 1,000 feet higher than Denver's mile high elevation, Johnson is confident he's mentally prepared for the challenge in front of him. And with Ubaldo Jimenez set to return from the disabled list Tuesday, Johnson realizes he's likely heading back down regardless of how well he pitches.

"I've reached my ultimate dream, I guess, so now it's time to cross that off and make another goal," Johnson said. "I'm going to have butterflies. I'm not going to be nervous, but it's more anxious energy. Get out there and prove myself."

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