Stephen Johnson, Cody Hall impress teammates with right-handed gas
Aside from the surprise of seeing Darren Ford running around again in a San Francisco Giants uniform, the highlights from one of Friday's two minor league intrasquad games belonged to two heavy-throwing right-handed relievers — Stephen Johnson and Cody Hall.
Johnson, a lanky six-foot, four-inch third-year pro, has one of the more unique deliveries in the Giants' system. Stepping across his body, Johnson comes at hitters with remarkable arm speed and a slider that should look familiar to Giants fans.
"It's devastating," said teammate Tyler Mizenko of Johnson's "frisbee" slider. "He slings that thing and he freezes a lot of hitters. He starts it behind the hitter and just floats it in there. It's a tough pitch to hit especially with how hard he throws."
Johnson has been known to be an upper-90s guy, touching 100 on occasion with Augusta in 2013, but was comfortably running his four-seamer between 92 and 94 on Friday.
Making 45 relief appearances a season ago as a GreenJacket, Johnson struck out 71 in 52.1 innings, but allowed 30 walks. Still, the 23-year-old from St. Edwards University in Austin, Tex. was a difficult task for hitters, who averaged just .215 at the plate when facing him.
"Johnson was straight up filthy when he was on," said Augusta Chronicle and GreenJackets beat reporter David Lee. "His two-pitch mix is [San Francisco] bullpen material if he can harness it."
"His stuff is big league stuff," Mizenko said. "It's a testament to how hard he's worked. He's one of the hardest working guys in any of the pitching staffs."
Cody Hall had easily one of the best statistical seasons of any Giants relief pitcher in 2013. In 60.0 innings, pitching for both San Jose and Richmond, Hall surrendered 47 baserunners and struck out 75. All of that added up to a 1.80 ERA, 10 saves, and a .153 opposing batting average.
On Friday, he demonstrated why his numbers were arguably worthy of a non-roster invite. Hall pounded the zone, sitting between 95 and 96 and countering the heat with a sharp, tight slider that fellow teammates were shocked to see touching 90 on their radar guns.
Adalberto Mejia solid in one inning
San Francisco's No. 19-ranked prospect Adalberto Mejia struck out outfielder Jarrett Parker with his fastball/changeup combo for his only punch out in one inning of work. The still just 20-year-old Mejia coaxed two ground balls to complete a one-two-three frame, followed by a mandatory bunt play to end the inning. Mejia's fastball was 92 to 93, as it usually is, countered with a low-80s changeup. Though he was successful last year throwing a slider, he clung on to speed and off-speed on Friday.
- It was nice to see Darren Ford back in a Giants uni. Ford was signed to a minor-league deal on February 18.
- The only home run I witnessed during live play came off the bat of Elliott Blair, and can be seen here.
- Juan Ciriaco made two errors on one play at third base, mishandling a ground ball and throwing wide to first base. Bobby Haney, however, made several sure-handed plays at the hot corner, where the usual shortstop played just twice in 2013.
- Matt Duffy and Jonathan Jones were the most impressive bats in a batting practice session that included Mac Williamson and Angel Villalona. Duffy, a third-year shortstop out of Long Beach State, homered three times while Jones, a 2011 draftee from Canada, cleared the fence twice.