Granted, he laughed as he said it, but it's still kind of cool to have a professional athlete start his answer to your question with, "That's a bad question!" It may have been a bad question but it got a good answer, and isn't that really the definition of a good question? No? Oh well.
The question in question was, "Is there a good hitter that for some reason, you seem to have their number, and a not-so-good hitter that for whatever reason, you just can't get them out?" This was, according to Johnson, a bad question because it forced him to anoint someone as a "good hitter" when as a pitcher you want to think you're better than any hitter, and when as anyone's potential future teammate you don't really want to label someone as a "bad hitter".
Then Johnson went on to tell the story of how he always seemed to get Mark Teixeira out, to where despite Teixeira's strong credentials as a big league hitter he was "something like 0 for 9 against me". Until finally they squared off again and on a "get-me-over fastball" Teixeira rolled one weakly through the right side for a single.
What's one of the main things I got out of the FanFest interview with Jim Johnson and Sonny Gray? I really like Johnson. He has a dry wit and a relaxed, friendly demeanor that is strangely alluring. He seems like one of those guys who with the twinkle of an eye, or the slightest smirk, can convey more than most can express with many words. I think I'm going to like him a lot.
I already liked Gray for his pitching, and now also appreciate him as a person as he showed a very playful side exchanging looks and barbs with the man who will probably save about 10 of his wins. When the two first sat down, Johnson quipped, "If the A's had a boy band..." Truer words were never spoken. Unfortunately, the conversation soon turned to baseball.
Where Johnson feels confident about the A's bullpen is how deep Oakland will be able to go without losing any quality. "Are you going to go to the well, to the same guy, three days in a row in April?" he asks rhetorically. "That catches up to you over the course of a season. You need to be able to share the load amongst the guys, but without losing anything."
Along those lines, I asked Johnson which was harder for him: pitching several days in a row or going long, such as a "four-out or five-out save". "Well I haven't been a multiple-inning guy for a couple years," he noted. "But I threw a crazy amount of innings in 2011 (he threw 91 IP), because they didn't know if they wanted to start of relieve me. I threw multiple innings, multiple days...But if I'm hot, I'm hot and ready to go -- I don't want to sit around." As a sinkerball pitcher it might also be worth noting that many sinkerball pitchers report that their sinker actually has more sinking action when they're a little tired, such as pitching on a third consecutive day.
In my quest to pose as many bad questions as possible, I asked Gray whether he was coming into this spring training looking to add a new pitch or wrinkle, or whether he was more in the mind-set of "refine what I already have". Gray pondered for a moment and then mused, "A knuckleball would be kind of cool..." But then he rejoined us on planet earth and pointed out that it would probably be more prudent to focus more on his changeup.
The baseball talk was good, but the camaraderie and humor was the most memorable aspect of this particular segment. There's something about the Oakland clubhouse: A's players, new and old, just seem to have a lot of fun together.