For Red Sox fans, the news about Clay Buchholz could have been much worse. For now, the fragile right-hander is looking at a flexor muscle strain in his right elbow. This is still a fluid situation (meaning it could get worse) but Manager John Farrell insists that Buchholz will pitch again this season. Considering the Red Sox do not need to replace his spot on the roster, the Red Sox could have stood pat until after the break when Buchholz turn comes up again. The Red Sox decided to let his replacement, left-hander Brian Johnson work out of the bullpen at the major league level for today and tomorrow to get his feet wet before the break. Cuban import Dalier Hinojosa was designated for assignment to create a spot on the 40 man roster for Johnson. Hinojosa pitched one game this season in which he threw 1.2 innings of scoreless relief.
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Johnson, who fans have been clamoring to see at the major league level given all the struggles with the Red Sox rotation, is 8-6 with a 2.73 ERA at AAA Pawtucket this season. He is considered the Red Sox top starting pitching prospect. Johnson last worked on July 6, giving up two earned runs in five innings. Since he would be on his regular turn in the rotation tonight, if the Red Sox needed a long man out of the bullpen tonight, he could fill that role. The ideal situation would be if the Red Sox were way ahead or way behind. The Red Sox had to throw Noe Ramirez into a tie game in extra innings last week in his first major league appearances and it resulted in a tough outing and a loss for the young reliever.[small-schedule]
Though it wasn’t said explicitly to the press yet, Red Sox fans can assume that Johnson will take Buchholz place in the rotation until Buchholz is able to recover from his elbow issues. Given that the team plans to shut Buchholz down for a week, one can assume Johnson will make at least one start, and probably several depending on how long the fragile right-hander is out. Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe wrote that the Detroit Tigers Doug Fister had a similar injury to Buchholz’ which kept him out a month.
The ascendance of Brian Johnson to the majors is something Red Sox fans have been hoping for, but not at the expense of Buchholz who has been their best pitcher this year (7-7, 3.26). It is encouraging to think that another pitcher was able to return a month after sustaining a similar injury, but Fister has had few of the durability issues that have always plagued Buchholz. Red Sox fans can only cross their fingers that Buchholz will be able to return to his form he has displayed since the start of May.
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