Daniel Johnson reunited with Kyle Bradish in Orioles camp

SARASOTA, Fla. – Daniel Johnson remembers Kyle Bradish being really good at New Mexico State.

Bradish was a freshman pitcher in 2016 who hadn’t seen anyone quite like the junior outfielder and future friend.

Johnson is in Orioles’ camp as a non-roster invite and the only outfielder on the original list submitted by the Orioles. Bradish, of course, is the 2023 ace and fourth-place finisher in American League Cy Young voting who’s beginning this season on the injured list.  

Their paths split as professionals, but they’re back inside the same clubhouse in spring training. One of them with a job waiting as long as he recovers from his sprained ulnar collateral ligament and avoids surgery.

“We’ve talked a little bit over the years," Bradish said. "He’s in Arizona, so I’ve seen him a little bit. It’s nice to have a familiar face around here again. It’s cool to see him.”

The Orioles signed Johnson, 28, to a minor league deal on Jan. 23. He spent last summer in the Padres system and batted a combined .271/.348/.469 with 28 doubles, four triples, 19 home runs and 73 RBIs in 126 games between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso. The left-handed hitter registered a .296 average and .967 OPS in 28 games in the Pacific Coast League.

Joining the Orioles was an easy call for Johnson, who has one minor league option remaining and can provide organizational depth if a spot isn’t open for him in late March. He plays all three outfield positions.

“They have a young core, they want to win here. I feel like my versatility can help with that,” Johnson said.

“They’ve obviously done a really good job of turning things around. They want to win now. They’re a good team, got a lot of young players. Got some veteran presence. It’s going to be a good experience and opportunity.”

Bradish was the Angels’ fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft who was traded to the Orioles on Dec. 4, 2019 in the Dylan Bundy deal. The Nationals chose Johnson in the fifth round in 2016 and traded him to Cleveland two years later. The Mets purchased his contract in May 2022 and released him two months later, and the Nationals re-signed him.

Bags were packed again after the Padres signed Johnson as a free agent in Feb. 2023.

The Orioles provide Johnson with a chance to stick in one place. He’d appreciate it. Settle in, find a home.

“That’s the plan, yeah,” he said.

“Moving around is never fun, but it’s kind of part of the journey, so I’m just trusting that process.”

A strained quadriceps early in 2022 limited Johnson to 70 games among six affiliates in the Nationals, Cleveland and Mets systems. He was healthy last summer but didn’t make it back to the majors while batting .271/.348/.469 with 28 doubles, four triples, 19 home runs, 73 RBIs and 30 steals in 38 attempts in 126 games between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso.

“After the injury, just getting my feet wet again,” said Johnson, who was 18-for-89 in 35 games with Cleveland in 2020-21. “Now I’m ready to go.”

Is there a place for him on the 26-man roster?

Left-handed hitting outfielders Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, Kyle Stowers and Sam Hilliard also are here.

“It’s not my first rodeo, honestly,” Johnson said, smiling. “It was the same in Cleveland, so just got to come here and do your thing.”

And do it with his former college teammate.

“I could tell he was going to be good, even when he was young,” Johnson said of Bradish. “He’s way more polished now, but back then he still had good stuff. It’s nice to see him again after so many years.”

Johnson batted .382/.434/.630 with 11 doubles, seven triples, 12 home runs, 50 RBIs and 29 stolen bases in 33 attempts in 57 games during his final season with the Aggies.

“He was probably the best baseball player I’ve ever seen and played with,” Bradish said.

“A lefty, hit for power, hit for average. I think on scout day his junior year, he was about 98 mph from the outfield, and then he got on the mound and it was 98 from the mound. It was pretty unbelievable."


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