PEORIA, Ariz. -- Josh Johnson doesn't need to see a string of zeros on the scoreboard to know that he's making progress -- though it certainly doesn't hurt.
Johnson, in his second outing of the spring, allowed three runs in the first inning of his start in Saturday's 4-4 tie with the Indians, but he felt more snake bit than ambushed -- a ball lost in the sun for a hit, an eight-hop single through the hard infield dirt, a fastball in on the hands of Nick Swisher, who blocked it the other way for a single.
"I made some good pitches, made some really close pitches, too," he said. "They weren't called strikes, but I thought they were pretty close. Two ground balls, one sun ball and the ball up the middle [Carlos Santana single] wasn't hit real hard, it was probably the hardest-hit ball all day."
Johnson recovered well, retiring eight of the final nine hitters he faced in a three-inning stint that saw him allow the three runs on five hits with three strikeouts. He mixed in more sliders in this outing and several changeups while also working on his fastball command.
"I thought he threw the ball with some velocity, his mechanics [were good]," said manager Bud Black. "I thought he threw the ball fine. He threw some changeups, mixed his pitches. He's doing fine."
Johnson said he wanted to focus on using his slider more in this start.
"You can throw it as much as you want in the bullpen, but when you get a hitter in there and you see the reactions, when you see where you want to start it, where you want to finish it, things like that, you start building off that," he said. "I threw three [sliders] last time. I pretty much wanted to double it, if not go a little bit more than that. I probably got close to six or eight or so."