After spending the off-season playing for the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod League, Johnson returned to the Hoosiers with soreness in his elbow.
The plan to start the season was to use Johnson as a designated hitter until his elbow soreness subsided, but IU Coach Tracy Smith said the team knew Johnson was going to need surgery at some point.
“We knew it was probably inevitable based on whether he could tolerate it any longer,” Smith said. “It got to a point where it was unbearable for him, so the decision was made to go ahead and do it now.”
The decision was made a week ago after the Hoosiers were swept by Tulane.
In the series, Johnson went a combined 0-for-8 with a walk in the first two games before not playing in the series finale.
While battling elbow tenderness, Johnson, who was unavailable for comment after Tuesday’s game against Louisville, started five games this season as the team’s designated hitter, but was limited to only three hits — a double, triple and home run — in 21 at-bats.
Because of the timing of the surgery, Smith said Johnson might need to rehabilitate for the remainder of the season.
“Realistically, I don’t know what that bodes for us in terms of us getting him back this season or not,” he said. “We will see how it goes with his rehab. He is going to go ahead and take care of it now and get himself right because it was a declining performance for him based on how he was feeling.”
Entering the season, Johnson was slotted as the Big Ten’s fifth-best prospect and was projected to be a possible third- or fourth-round draft pick by Baseball America.
This past year, Johnson achieved second team All-Big Ten honors by leading IU in runs (43), stolen bases (19), triples (4), walks (25), sacrifice flies (5) and defensive assists (128). Johnson also batted .335 with three home runs and 34 RBIs while starting 54 out of the team’s 55 games.
Junior Michael Basil, who has played second base and first base this season, said the team knows everyone will need to step up to fill the void left by Johnson.
“If Chad Clark can step into his role and hit the way he has been hitting, it will be big,” Basil said. “Micah is an impact player, and we will miss him, but Chad can be successful, and we all know we need to pick it up a little bit more now.”
In four starts this season, Clark, a freshman from West Hills, Calif., has nine hits in 18 at-bats while scoring four runs and hitting two homers.
Although Clark will be the person directly replacing Johnson in the line-up, Smith said the team will not rely on only one person to step up to fill in some of the intangibles Johnson brought.
“You are talking about a guy who is probably a .330 to .340 hitter, will hit eight to 10 home runs and will steal a bunch of bases,” Smith said. “Whether we replace those numbers or not, I’m not sure, but we need to have somebody to be what he was on the bases, which is making the pitcher think, getting on base.”
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