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Potential free agency not causing Johnson stress


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Josh Johnson is entering arguably the most important season of his career, but he claims not to be putting much thought into that.

Johnson is set to become a free agent at the end of the year, and a strong season will undoubtedly result in a big payday.

This has the potential to become a stressful situation for any player, but Toronto's No. 4 starter says it's the furthest thing from his mind. That's hard to take at face value, but the Blue Jays aren't concerned either way as long as the numbers are there at the end of the season.

"It's everybody's career. ... It's human nature," manager John Gibbons said. "He's a team guy, though. That doesn't necessarily surprise me. He's a special pitcher. He's been one of the top guys in the game for a lot of years. We are going to need him."

The contract talks can wait for now, and Johnson is instead focusing on having a big first season in Toronto. If that happens, the money will follow; the production also will go a long way in helping Toronto succeed in its quest of reaching the postseason.

It's only Spring Training, but Johnson has looked extremely sharp early in camp. He retired all 11 Atlanta batters he faced on Friday afternoon while striking out five in a relatively dominating performance.

His velocity consistently reached 94 mph for the first time this spring, and he also displayed a much better curveball than he did in his previous three outings. Overall, it was a very productive afternoon.

"Just being able to repeat my delivery," Johnson said when asked about the most important aspect of the start against Atlanta. "That's it. I threw a lot of sinkers today; that pitch is coming around for me, finally.

"I threw a couple of good changeups. I didn't want to throw too many sliders."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["spring_training" ] }
{"event":["spring_training" ] }
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