Kris Johnson and Miles Mikolas passed their first tests in Japan with flying colors. The two pitchers, Johnson, a southpaw who deals for the Hiroshima Carp, and Mikolas, a Yomiuri Giants right-hander, couldn't have made better first impressions during their first seasons in NPB.

Their performances last season should see them return to Japan full of confidence this year, when two hungry fan-bases will be eager to see if they can deliver an encore.

The Carp could certainly use a repeat from Johnson. The team lost its ace over the offseason, having successfully posted Kenta Maeda to MLB, where he'll play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Without Maeda, there's even more onus on the pitchers in the Carp rotation to step their games up. While celebrated veteran Hiroki Kuroda, himself a former Dodger, may get the lion's share of the spotlight, Johnson is a key component.