One Game Careers: Alan Johnson

Updated: Apr 5, 2021


Alan Johnson recorded a single start for the Rockies in 2011.

Coors Field can be one of the most unforgiving and cruel fields for pitchers. The thin air makes it hard for hurlers to have success there. The Rockies have been the unfortunate inheritors of the field's tough conditions, and in 2011 that was no different. They recorded a staff ERA of 4.43, which ranked 15th of 16 in the National League. One part of that staff, however small, was Alan Johnson, who had to bear the brunt of Coors during his one game career.


Johnson had an unorthodox start to his career, pitching at Mississippi State but going undrafted. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Colorado Rockies in 2005, starting in a system where it would be an uphill climb for the righty, being placed on the Casper Rockies in the Pioneer League.


Johnson pitched to a solid 3.97 ERA across 15 starts in Casper. He continued his climb up the Rockies' ladder, joining the A-Level Asheville Tourists where he would have another solid showing.


2007 would be the best season in terms of Johnson's development. Pitching for Single-A Modesto and AA Tulsa, he pitched to a 2.77 ERA across 28 starts, including allowing no runs in 13.1 innings at Tulsa.


The next three seasons would not be great for Johnson, but there is an explanation for that. After a mediocre season in Tulsa, recording a 5.23 ERA over 28 starts, he was jetted to Colorado Springs in the Pacific Coast League for the 2009 season. Further mediocrity ensued, pitching in the hitter-friendly PCL with a team in very thin air to a 5.66 ERA.


Following that, Johnson would record a disastrous two-game stint in the Venezuelan Winter League, allowing nine runs in 3.1 innings.


Spending another season in Colorado Springs, Johnson once again had an inflated ERA, 5.91 at another year in AAA. However, he must have been good enough for the Rockies, who kept him on the back burner early in 2011. When Greg Reynolds was sent down, Alan Johnson came up.


APRIL 17, 2011: DENVER DRUBBING

The Rockies were cooking to begin the 2011 regular season, starting 12-3 and crushing on all cylinders. They were coming off of a four-game sweep of the Mets at Citi Field where they won three games by one run, and after dropping the second game of their series against the Cubs, they were looking to win yet another series in the early portion of the season.


The Cubs entered Coors Field after taking two of three from the Astros in Houston. Quick shoutout to the days of the Astros in the NL Central, by the way.


The Rockies called on the 27-year old Johnson to start a game against the Chicago Cubs. Alan Johnson toed the rubber against Ryan Dempster for an unassuming pitching matchup with Johnson making his MLB debut.


Alan Johnson's start was not great, but it was not good either. He faced off against Starlin Castro for the first batter... who lashed a single into left field. No big deal, just a single. Known elite hitter Darwin Barney followed with another hard-hit single to send Castro to third. All Johnson needed was to record an out, so why not two? Marlon Byrd grounded into a run-scoring double play, just what the doctor ordered. Johnson induced a soft groundout from Aramis Ramirez to end the inning. Not too shabby for a first inning in the major leagues, escaping with much less damage than what could have happened and on only 14 pitches.


The Rockies rewarded Alan Johnson with a three-run cushion after the first, tattooing Ryan Dempster. Carlos Gonzalez and Todd Helton each had an RBI hit and Seth Smith cranked a two-run shot to center field. Not bad for a response.


The next inning would be a slog for Johnson. After a lead-off walk, he recorded his first major league strikeout on Alfonso Soriano. However, a wild pitch and an RBI double made the score 4-2.


Johnson would give all the runs back in the bottom half of the third, allowing a walk, a single, a strikeout, then a single and a groundout that scored two runs from Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Peña, respectively.


Dempster got the first 1-2-3 inning of the game, and Johnson was not as lucky. Starlin Castro hit an RBI double and the Cubs led again. Despite the Rockies tying the game, Jim Tracy had seen enough, pulling Johnson for Matt Belisle.


Johnson's final line: 4 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 K, 3 BB, 1 WP, 9.00 ERA


The Rockies would battle back late in the game, winning it 9-5 on the strength of a Dexter Fowler double. Head coach Jim Tracy expressed gratitude for the fight Johnson put up in the game.


"I give Alan Johnson credit. He battled," he said. "He got himself into some pickles due to the fact he was trying to pitch out of hitters' counts. They dinged him here. They dinged him there."


12 days later, Johnson would be sent down, spending the rest of the season in Colorado Springs and never making it back to the major leagues. He would not be signed to a contract, instead spending the following two seasons in the independent leagues with the Lancaster Barnstormers, not pitching much better. He had a 4.57 ERA in 2012 and an 8.02 ERA in 2013, ending his career shortly after.


This game ultimately would not matter, as the Rockies faded down the stretch, finishing fourth in the NL West as the Cubs finished in the cellar of the NL Central. Neither team surpassed 80 wins.


You can find the full game here or the box score here.


A player can get into a baseball game in several ways. Johnson got a spot start, was not great, and never made it back, making that his one-game career.

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