Drafted By Montreal Expos In 1985
Johnson entered the Major League Baseball (MLB) draft in 1985 and was selected by the Montreal Expos in the second round. For the next three years he pitched for a number of minor league teams in the Expos' farm system. Late in the 1988 season, the Expos called Johnson up to the majors, where he did well for the remainder of the regular season, going 3-0 with an earned-run average (ERA) of 2.42. Despite his auspicious debut in major league ball, the next season was anything but promising for Johnson. After a dismal start to his 1989 season (an ERA of 6.67), Johnson was sent back to the minors by Montreal. Once again his problem was ball control. He walked twenty-six batters in twenty-nine innings. In late May 1989, the Expos traded Johnson to the Seattle Mariners. Johnson did better in Seattle but still posted a losing 7-9 record with an ERA of 4.40 for the remainder of the 1989 season.
Johnson showed improvement in 1990, going 14-11 with an ERA of 3.65. The highlight of his season was a 2-0 no-hitter he pitched against the Detroit Tigers. He also was tapped for his first All-Star Game, although he never got an opportunity to pitch. Although he turned in fairly creditable pitching records during the seasons of 1991 and 1992 with ERAs of 3.98 and 3.77, respectively, Johnson continued to be plagued by problems of ball control. Although he led the majors in strikeouts in 1992 with 241, he also led the majors in walks for the third consecutive season. Personal tragedy struck on Christmas Day 1992. As Johnson was flying home to spend the holidays with his parents, his father suffered a massive heart attack and died before Johnson could reach the hospital. In the wake of his father's death, he seriously considered leaving baseball. As he told an interviewer for Sport magazine, "Baseball meant so little. I enjoyed the thrill of telling my dad how good I was on a given night. When he passed away, I realized I had no one to call. Part of me had died too."
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