they posted this on ESPN yesterday:
Wednesday, May 16
Q&A: Yanks Triple-A 1B Nick Johnson
Nick Johnson hasn't missed a beat. After going 576 days between at-bats due to a wrist injury suffered in spring training of 2000, Johnson is back and has been as good as ever while playing for Columbus, the New York Yankees' Triple-A farm club.
Considered one of the game's future stars entering last season, Johnson left a spring training contest with a hand injury and never returned, missing the entire season.
Johnson, who earned SportsTicker All-Teen team honors after hitting .317 with 17 homers and 58 RBI for Class A Tampa in 1998, won the Double-A Eastern League batting title the following year. That season, Johnson led the minor leagues with a .525 on-base percentage and 123 walks while earning All-Prospect Team honors, all as the league's third-youngest hitter. The Sacramento native set a league record by reaching base in 63 straight games on his way to becoming the only minor leaguer in the past decade to post an on-base percentage of .500.
This season, the 22-year-old Johnson is hitting .298 with eight homers and 20 RBI in 36 games. He has drawn 26 walks and fanned 35 times in 148 plate appearances.
Q: What's it like being a part of the Yankee system, and is there a mystique that follows the system?
A: Yeah, there is a mystique because I'm out there everyday, and I'm having fun playing for them. They've been great all the way through, and they're a club that's always wanting to win.
Q: Were you surprised that it was the Yankees that drafted you?
A: I was happy that I was drafted, and then it was the Yankees and that just made it even better. You look at all the great players that they've had and the potential of playing in Yankee Stadium.
Q: Was it ever a dream of yours to play for the Yankees?
A: Not really. I just wanted to go play in the big leagues. But possibly playing for the Yankees is very special.
Q: You injured your arm on a check swing in an exhibition game, and that injury caused you to miss the entire season. Have you every seen or heard of someone injuring themselves like that and then being forced to miss the whole year?
A: I think it happens. It's probably a common bone, but it was definitely a freak injury. The hardest part was not knowing what was wrong with it. I still, to this day, don't know what was wrong, and it forced me to miss all of last season. At first, it was that I was going to be out two weeks, rest and then I would come back slowly. I tried that and started to come back. Then, in August, I put a cast on it for six weeks, and that seemed to work. I immobilized it, and I went to Tampa to rehab after that. That's the toughest thing, that little chip or that little ligament in your hand, and that probably kept me out the entire year.
Q: Coming back from the injury, did you expect to be at Triple-A?
A: I really didn't know. I felt good, and wherever I went, I was going to play everyday, hopefully. That's the main thing that I wanted, to get at-bats and just go play everyday, because that's 500 at-bats that I missed last year.
Q: You weren't surprised that you made the jump to Triple-A?
A: No. I can play anywhere. It's just fun to come back and compete.
Q: Can you play at the big-league level right now? Is it just the fact that Tino (Martinez) is sitting in your way?
A: (Laughing) I can play anywhere!
Q: A top prospect in any organization is always under a spotlight, and I'm sure that's the case with you, especially being in the Yankee organization. Do you enjoy the spotlight?
A: Yeah. It's nice if people think that, but you have to put all of that aside and you still have to go out there and play. That's not going to get hits for you. That's not going to help your team win. It's nice off the field, but you still have to do your stuff out here (on the field).
Q: You're always near the top of the league in on-base percentage. How?
A: This year, I've been swinging at a lot of bad balls, I haven't really been that patient. I just try to get on anyway that I can, hit, hit-by-pitch, walk, home runs, anything. When you get on base, holes open up and things happen and you're able to find a way to score runs.
Q: Do you have to take each individual at-bat differently, in terms of looking at the situation that you are presented with?
A: Yeah. It mainly comes on deck when looking at what is going on, who's out there and the situation. Then you go to work when you get in the box.
Q: What's up with getting hit 37 times in one season? Is it your stance? Are you that close to the plate?
A: (sigh) I don't think I am! Knock on wood. But I haven't been hit that much this year. It's a combination of things. I didn't get out of the way.
Q: Are you seeing the release point better as you get older?
A: I don't know. I'm just getting out of the way. Maybe I'm tired of getting hit. I got hit in the head a few years ago, so that may do it. It's not fun, let me tell you, but it hasn't changed my hitting at all. I'm still an aggressive hitter.
Q: What's one of the things that you have worked on the hardest?
A: It's overall. Hitting, base-running, everything within the game I try and work on, because if I had it all down, then I'd be up there (with the Yankees).
Q: Being from the West Coast, what's the biggest difference between the West Coast and the East Coast? Is there one?
A: Not really. Back home is laid back. I'm laid back. I'm not going to change wherever I go.
Q: Is the east coast that stereotypical "rushed" society?
A: Oh, yeah. West Coast, it could be too wherever you're from. I think maybe L.A. or San Francisco could be rushed, but Sacramento is just laid back! I'm three hours from the nearest beach. I'm more towards Lake Tahoe. Only an hour away.
Q: What's one of your favorite baseball moments?
A: Probably playing that Futures Game in 1999. That was fun. Going out and playing left field (at Fenway Park). That was awesome.
Q: Because you were a part of the Major League festivities that weekend, could you taste where you wanted to be?
A: Yeah. You want to be there. You play to win, to get that World Series ring, All-Star games and whatever comes with it.
Q: Does it make you jealous because you're playing for the organization that has most recently won all of the world titles?
A: That's all right. I'll get mine in a few years, when I get up there and when the time comes. If it works out, then it works out.
Q: Does it make you hungry?
A: Oh yeah, of course it does. That's why you've played since you were five or six. To win, win, win and when you get up there (Major Leagues), you want to win, win, win.
Q: I've asked this to everybody. What's your favorite baseball movie?
A: The Natural. I like that one.
Q: Is that you?
A: (laughter) Maybe!!