The Red Sox have released left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson.
According to MassLive, the Red Sox have granted the left-hander his release. Reports surfaced this morning that Johnson had left he club’s alternate site in Pawtucket to return to his home in Florida, leading to speculation that he was opting out for the rest of the season.
We’ve since learned that Johnson asked to be released due to the lack of opportunity he was receiving with the Red Sox. He still intends to find that opportunity elsewhere this season.
"“He just felt like he wanted an opportunity,” said manager Ron Roenicke. “Sometimes you have to go other places to have a better opportunity. He asked for his release. Chaim did not want to keep him from an opportunity where he could get back to the big leagues. Although we would like to have him here for depth, that’s the decision that Brian wanted.”"
It’s baffling that a Red Sox organization with razor thin pitching depth couldn’t give Johnson a chance. With Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez ruled out for the season, Boston has struggled to find five viable starting pitchers. They are currently relying on openers to fill two rotation spots and lack any consistent options who inspire much confidence beyond Nathan Eovaldi, who has been solid if you can overlook that he’s supposed to be the staff “ace.”
While Johnson wasn’t going to be the savior of the rotation, he could certainly be a useful part of it. Last year was a disaster with Johnson posting a brutal 6.01 ERA in 21 appearances split between the rotation and bullpen but he has been moderately successful as a spot starter in the past.
Johnson is 6-6 with a 4.54 ERA in 26 career starts. He’s not an exciting option by any means but those numbers are acceptable for a No. 4 starter, which is all the Red Sox would need him to be.
You’re telling me that this guy was toiling away in Pawtucket while Ryan Weber was allowed to make three horrific starts? The Red Sox would prefer to burn their bullpen by using two openers in the rotation instead of giving one spot to Johnson?
To be fair, there were some obstacles to getting Johnson back in Boston. He wasn’t on the 40-man roster, which means the Red Sox would need to bump someone else in order to make room. He’s also out of minor league options. If the Red Sox added Johnson and he didn’t pan out, they would need to designate him for assignment in order to remove him from the active roster. They might have ended up losing him anyway while potentially being forced to sacrifice someone else in order to give Johnson the opportunity.
Despite the risk, the Red Sox should have found a way to call him up. Johnson had been in the organization since the Red Sox selected him in the first round of the 2012 draft. He’s filled any role the team asked of him since making his big league debut in 2015. He deserved a chance to prove last year was an outlier. He deserved better than to beg for his release.