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02/15/09 5:34 PM EST

Fit, trim Johnson expects more action

Outfielder drops 14 pounds in offseason, preparing to contribute

MESA, Ariz. -- Reed Johnson was looking for some new pants on Sunday.

The Cubs outfielder decided to change his eating habits this offseason and dropped about 14 pounds. He's amazed at how much better he feels physically and mentally.

"If you lose the 11, 15 pounds and then you put on a 15-pound weight vest, you realize how much tougher it can be on your body," he said Sunday.

Johnson wasn't told to drop the pounds. But he's had back problems in the past and chose to watch his intake in hopes of preventing any more issues. No more greasy cheeseburgers on his menu. In-N-Out burgers are out, salads with chicken are in.

"I feel like I got to the point where I've conditioned my body to where I don't have to eat as much anymore," he said. "When I first got home, I could eat a bean and cheese burrito and whatever, and I'd say, 'Man, I could eat more after this.' Now I go and have something to eat and I'm full and satisfied, and you condition your body to eat better and eat less."

A kinesiology major at Cal State Fullerton, he knew that less weight would be less strain on his back. It can only help.

"If you take on a bigger workload, whether it's the middle of Spring Training or halfway through the season, it's harder to lose weight," he said.

Johnson is expecting a bigger workload this year with the Cubs.

"Everybody knows anything can happen," he said. "You're one injury away from being an everyday guy. If you're not prepared and that opportunity comes up, it'll come and it'll go just as fast."

During spring and in the season, he'll take fly balls in left, center and right so he's prepared for all three. He played mostly right field his rookie year, and mostly in left when he was with Toronto. In college, he played center and Aaron Rowand was in right field.

Johnson has heard Cubs manager Lou Piniella say he wants to give the regulars more rest this season.

"If that's the case, being a player who can move to different positions helps me as well," Johnson said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.