Kyle Johnston Works From The Ground Up
In righthander Kyle Johnston’s first year in pro ball, he might’ve spent more time focused on his legs than on his arm.
The 2017 sixth-round pick split time between the rotation and the bullpen at short-season Auburn, as he had in the Big 12 Conference at Texas. Working with pitching coach Tim Redding, Johnston went 0-2, 3.43 with 32 strikeouts and 23 walks in 45 innings for the Doubledays. "There’s a lot there to work with and tap into,” Redding said. "One of our big areas of emphasis in the organization is working from the ground up, and he really bought into that. Once you’re able to understand your lower half, your upper half goes along for the ride.”
Redding, who pitched for the Nationals and four other teams in his eight-year major league career, said Johnston flashed a solid 12-to-6 curveball. The 21-year-old also impressed with his mid-90s fastball and his slider. Johnston mixed in a changeup with a grip he picked up from pitching coordinator Paul Menhart.
As a junior with the Longhorns, the 6-foot Johnston had a 2.90 ERA in his 12 starts while making five relief appearances. In the New York-Penn League, he started seven games and relieved seven.
"I’m up for anything they want me to do,” Johnston said. "In (instructional league), I worked with the starters, but I was limited to throwing bullpens because of the innings I pitched over the course of the year.”
Undrafted out of high school in Flower Mound, Texas, Johnston saw himself as someone who needed three years of college seasoning. The time in Austin helped him prepare for becoming a professional, and then his baseball education grew over the summer.
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"I learned probably the most I’ve ever learned in baseball,” Johnston said. "All the coaches had my back through all the ups and downs—and the downs are just a part of baseball. That’s where you develop as a pitcher. I felt like I could see past the results and realize where I was getting better.”