Nick Johnson Blasts Open Yankee Stadium and His Own Season

Tonight's Healthy ScratchesCorrespondent IApril 14, 2010

NEW YORK - APRIL 13:  Nick Johnson #26 of the New York Yankees hits a solo home run in the bottom of the firts inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the Yankees home opener at Yankee Stadium on April 13, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Besides the ring ceremony, nail-biting finish, and return of Godzilla, there was one other noteworthy occurrence at Yankee Stadium yesterday afternoon: the emergence of Nick Johnson.

When the Yankees embraced Hideki Matsui in a goosebump-inducing moment for Yankee fans, it finally set in—Matsui is no longer the Yankees DH.

No, instead of Matsui, the Yankees penciled the oft-injured Nick Johnson to fill Matsui's void of designated hitter this past offseason.

Johnson's second tour of duty in pinstripes had yet to truly take off the way he had most likely envisioned.

Coming into the home opener, Johnson was a derisory 3-for-22, although, his on-base percentage was still a respectable .367.

That changed in the first inning when Johnson crushed the first Yankee Stadium home run of the 2010 season.

It wasn't a typical, cheap home run to right field of Yankee Stadium, either. It was smoked.

Maybe it was the comfort of being at Yankee Stadium, or possibly the incentive of the ring ceremony which he wasn't a part of—or maybe it was the intensity of his personally chosen walk-up music of "Party in the U.S.A." by Miley Cyrus—whatever the case, something sparked Johnson.

Perhaps it was the day spent with hitting coach Kevin Long, who persuaded Johnson to use his size to his advantage when at the plate.

Besides the homer in the first, Johnson also smacked a double and in typical-fashion, drew two walks.

The home runs will be a welcome addition for Johnson, playing half his games with the enticing right field at Yankee Stadium, but that's not what the Yankees brought him in for.

What the Yankees want out of Johnson is what he's been consistent of his whole career—besides getting hurt that is.

Johnson's eye at the plate has consistently been one of the best in baseball. Last season, he finished behind only Joe Mauer and Albert Pujols in on-base percentage with a .426 OBP.

Going with Johnson as the replacement for Matsui at DH and Johnny Damon in the two-hole, was a gamble for GM Brian Cashman to make with Johnson's injury history.

So far, it's working out.

He scored three runs during yesterday's game.

Johnson should have no problem getting on base for the Yankees, it's staying healthy that's worrisome.

For those of you that follow baseball regularly, I don't have to get into Nick Johnson's injury-riddled past.

However, unlike Matsui's knee problems, most of Johnson's injuries are unrelated, so it's not like there is a specific reason to worry.

This season will also be the first time that Johnson is a permanent DH, which will surely curve his injury risk a great deal.

With a healthy Johnson trailing Derek Jeter in setting the plate for the big bats of A-Rod and Mark Teixeira, there should be plenty of reason for Johnson to want to Party in the U.S.A. come October.



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