This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
For the fifth time in six years, Keith Johnson is back in Triple-A.
Unlike a player who remains one step shy on the major leagues, however, Johnson sounds more than happy to be returning as manager of the Salt Lake Bees.
Johnson, the Pacific Coast League's Manager of the Year in 2013, spent last season as a roving infield instructor for the parent Los Angeles Angels. He also spent time with the big league club as a player information coach.
"Last year was great for me," Johnson said Tuesday during the Bees' annual media day. "I got to see our organization and I got to see major league baseball for 2 1/2 months. So it was fun."
However, Johnson is returning to his comfort zone as a manager, and is once again working close to home. He has been, and continues to be a Salt Lake City resident.
"This is what I like doing; I like being on the field," Johnson said. "I like having an impact on my 25 guys, rather than dealing with the whole organization. … I didn't think I'd miss it as much as I did."
The Bees open the 2016 season Thursday night against Sacramento at Smith's Ballpark.
As always, it will be Johnson's job to get players ready for the big leagues, if the Angels need them. He would also like to help the Bees win more consistently than they have recently.
Last season, Salt Lake finished 58-86.
Two years ago, the Bees were 60-84.
Combined, they finished 41 games out of first place in the PCL's Pacific Southern Division.
"For me, the biggest measuring stick is the guys I send up," Johnson said. "If a guy goes up and they ask him to bunt and he can't get a bunt down … or if they ask him to run and he can't … or if they ask a reliever to get through an inning and he can't … then I haven't done my job. But if a guy does what they ask and contributes to a win in the big leagues, then we're doing the right thing."
Among the players on the Bees' opening night roster, 19 have major league experience. Their 12 pitchers have made 999 big league appearances. Right-hander Nick Tropeano and lefty Tyler Skaggs probably rank somewhere among the top seven starting pitchers in the organization as the new season dawns.
"I'll tell you what," Johnson said. "We've got a bunch of guys out here who are pretty good ballplayers. If they go out and do their thing if they go out and do it collectively as a group we're going to win more ballgames than we lose. … It's my job to make sure these guys do that more often than they don't."
Salt Lake's Kaleb Cowart, who hit .323 for the Bees last season before finishing with the Angels, sounds confident Johnson can get it done.
"I've known K.J. for awhile," he said. "I've never played on a team under him, but I like him as a person and I've heard great things about him."
Keith Johnson update
• Keith Johnson returns as manager of the Salt Lake Bees for the fifth time in the past six years.
• Johnson spent last season as a roving infield instructor and major league player information coach for the parent Los Angeles Angels.
• The Bees open the 2016 Pacific Coast League season against Sacramento on Thursday night at Smith's Ballpark.