ANAHEIM—Sherman Johnson headed to the field for a spring-training workout in March with what, from afar, looked like a massive hunk of leather on his left hand.
Upon closer inspection, it was a first baseman’s mitt, which seemed larger than normal on Johnson’s 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame and out of place because Johnson, a second baseman and third baseman by trade, had never played first base until this spring.
But Johnson is 26 and in his sixth professional season, and his best chance of reaching the big leagues could be as a utility player, so he saw some innings in at first this spring. Sure enough, he started 12 of his first 17 games at Triple-A Salt Lake at first base.
“Getting to the big leagues, you see guys being able to play everywhere,” Johnson said.
A 14th-round pick out of Florida State in 2012, Johnson had a breakout season in 2014 when he hit .276/.382/.465 with 17 home runs, 78 RBIs and 26 stolen bases in 136 games at high Class A Inland Empire.
With the Angels looking to upgrade at second base—Johnny Giavotella started in 2015 and 2016—Johnson could have positioned himself for a callup with a strong 2015.
But he struggled at Double-A Arkansas, hitting just .204, then followed that with a poor season at Salt Lake in 2016.
The lefthanded-hitting Johnson is a solid contact, gap-to-gap hitter with excellent plate discipline, and his preparation, positioning, anticipation and awareness have been defensive strengths.
“The goal is to get to the big leagues, no matter how you get there,” Johnson said. “I look at how Josh Harrison (the 5-foot-8 Pirates regular at second base) did it a couple of years ago.
“He got to the big leagues as a utility guy. Somebody got hurt, he took advantage of his opportunity, started playing every day, and he played well. That can happen.”
• The Angels extended their affiliation with Salt Lake through the 2020 season, continuing a relationship that dates back to 2001, a span in which the Bees have reached the Pacific Coast League finals twice, in 2002 and 2013.
• Shortstop Keith Grieshaber, who is currently on the Rookie-level Orem roster, received a 50-game suspension without pay following a second positive test for a drug of abuse.
— Mike DiGiovanna covers the Angels for the Los Angeles Times