For Red Sox pitching prospect Brian Johnson, his long-awaited major league debut will come Tuesday in Houston. But, with the success of Eduardo Rodriguez, many are expecting the same type of production out of Johnson, which to Johnson just isn’t fair.
This isn’t to say Johnson won’t succeed in the majors, it’s just pointing out the two aren’t the same type of pitcher. Rodriguez has fairly electric stuff and can dominate hitters when he’s at his best. Johnson, on the other hand, isn’t as flashy.
The left-handed Johnson isn’t going to overpower anyone, as his fastball is in the low 90s. He’s more of a pitch-to-contact pitcher and does not walk many batters. The main point is that Johnson won’t create the same type of buzz Rodriguez did.
Johnson hasn’t pitched in a game since July 6, but the 24-year old is 8-6 with a 2.73 ERA in 16 starts this season. In 13 of those 16 starts he’s allowed two earned runs or less, which just continues his impressive run from last season where between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland he allowed two earned runs or less in 22 of his 25 starts.
While the 2012 first-round pick won’t blow anyone away with his stuff, clearly the numbers speak for themselves.
“The one thing he showed in spring training was a willingness to attack the strike zone with three pitches,” manager John Farrell said last weekend after his call up. “He’s got a couple of breaking balls that he can get some swing and miss to. But I think it’s his overall competitiveness, in addition to the repertoire, that brings him here equipped.’’
With Johnson being called up now, it seems like he will be in the Red Sox’ rotation to stay, especially if the team continues to fall further and further back in the AL East. Player development will become the primary focus soon, if things don’t change dramatically.
The one thing to monitor with Johnson is his innings. He went from 118 in 2013 to 143 2/3 last season. He’s currently at 85 2/3 innings this season, so it would seem likely the organization wouldn’t want to go more than 150-160. In order for him to be able to pitch the rest of the regular season, Johnson may be pulled in games sooner than the average pitcher as a way to preserve his innings.
The Red Sox have reason to be excited about the future with Johnson, Rodriguez and pitcher Henry Owens — who could also be called up this season. While Boston’s player development has been under some recent scrutiny, these three players have an opportunity to sway any negative thoughts.