Red Sox add lefty Brian Johnson as 26th man for doubleheader

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - JUNE 16: Brian Johnson #61 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 16, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - JUNE 16: Brian Johnson #61 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 16, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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The Boston Red Sox have activated left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson from the 10-day injured list in time for Saturday’s doubleheader.

Let’s play two! The Boston Red Sox will play a doubleheader in the Bronx on Saturday against the New York Yankees. MLB allows teams to carry an extra player on the active roster for doubleheaders, allowing Brian Johnson to rejoin the club.

The Red Sox activated Johnson from the 10-day injured list following a successful rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. The lefty has been sidelined since June 29 with a non-baseball related medical condition.

Johnson will start the nightcap of the day-night doubleheader.

His limited production this season leaves a lot to be desired but his 6.43 ERA is inflated by one horrible appearance in mop-up duty back in April. Johnson hasn’t allowed more than one run in any other outing.

This will be Johnson’s third start of the season and he’s pitched well in each of his previous opportunities, allowing only one run over eight innings as a spot starter. He limited the Toronto Blue Jays to one unearned run over five innings in his last appearance before being placed on the IL.

Johnson has always fared better in the rotation. He’s 6-4 with a 4.14 ERA in 21 career starts compared to 1-3 with a 5.44 ERA in 30 relief appearances.

While he’s a serviceable option as a spot starter, the concern is that Johnson hasn’t gone deeper than five innings this season. That puts pressure on a bullpen that the Red Sox weren’t able to upgrade at the trade deadline. The options to relieve Johnson may be depleted if the bullpen is taxed in the afternoon game, potentially making some of their options unavailable tonight. Boston desperately needs Chris Sale to step up and pitch like an ace in the first game of this doubleheader.

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The Red Sox rotation will hit another snag if David Price isn’t able to return from paternity leave in time to start Sunday’s series finale. Players can miss up to three days on paternity leave but may return sooner. Boston is hoping that Price won’t need the full three days. If he can’t pitch tomorrow night, the Red Sox will be scrambling to find another spot starter to go in his place.

Boston has dropped five straight games, their longest losing streak since 2015. They can’t afford to fall any further back in the postseason race and the schedule testing their rotation depth certainly isn’t helping.

If it’s any consolation, the Yankees pitching staff is in a similar predicament. They failed to upgrade their starting rotation at the trade deadline and therefore don’t have the depth to handle a doubleheader. They are expected to treat the nightcap as a bullpen game with Chad Green serving as an opener. New York has a stronger bullpen but is it deep enough to cover for a “starter” who lasts only an inning or two, mere hours after their bullpen wrapped up a day game?

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At least the Red Sox can expect more innings out of Johnson. We should temper expectations following a lengthy layoff but Johnson’s return comes at an ideal time for a Red Sox staff that is already stretched thin.