Red Sox left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson produces strong outing in minor league game

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 14: Starting pitcher Brian Johnson
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 14: Starting pitcher Brian Johnson /

Boston Red Sox left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson pitched into the fifth inning of a minor league camp game as he vies for a spot in the rotation.

Brian Johnson has no assurances of starting the season in the Boston Red Sox rotation. His lack of remaining minor league options means he’s likely to make the roster in some capacity, although that’s not a lock either. All he can control is his own performance in hopes that he impresses enough to claim a role for himself.

If Johnson’s latest performance on the mound is any indication, he’s making solid progress.

Johnson pitched in a minor league camp game on Tuesday. While most of us missed out on watching the untelevised event, the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier was there to live tweet the performance.

The lefty dominated out of the gate, retiring the side in order in the first inning while recording a pair of strikeouts.

He needed only 10 pitches to cruise through the second inning. Johnson logged two more strikeouts along the way, including one where he caught the batter looking.

Johnson racked up six strikeouts through three innings. The only base runner he had allowed at that point reached on an error.

The minor league squad finally got to Johnson for a hit in the fourth inning. There would be no damage done as a result, as Johnson would end up striking out the side.

The outing came to an end in the middle of an at-bat once Johnson reached his pitch limit. He tallied one more strikeout in that fifth inning before walking off the mound without getting the chance to finish off the 17th batter he faced.

Johnson couldn’t quite make it through the five innings he aimed for due to pitch count limitations but he looked great in the abbreviated stint. He finished with only one hit allowed, no runs and 10 strikeouts.

Granted, the low-level minor league hitters are a far cry from the talent he would face at the big league level. It won’t be this easy for Johnson if he does claim that fifth spot in the rotation but this strong performance is another step in that direction.

Johnson has flashed potential against minor league competition before. He owns a 3.18 ERA over parts of three seasons at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Now he has to prove capable of carrying that success to the majors. Johnson is 2-1 in six career major league starts but with an unappealing 4.88 ERA. The highlight of his career was a complete game shutout against the Seattle Mariners last May. That marked the only time he has lasted longer than six innings or given up fewer than three runs in a major league start.

Johnson remains a work in progress but he has the talent to become a suitable back of the rotation starter. The fifth spot in the Red Sox rotation is currently up for grabs. With Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright questionable to start the season on time, Johnson has a realistic opportunity to claim the final spot.

If the Red Sox opt for someone else in the rotation then Johnson may wind up in the bullpen. He’s never made an appearance as reliever in his professional career but he could be useful in long relief or as a lefty specialist.

Next: Bold predictions for 2018

Time is running out for Johnson to make an impression with just over two weeks to go before Opening Day. He still has more to prove but after his performance today, his stock seems to be trending upward.