Brian Johnson, LHP
Johnson is still out with an "undisclosed shoulder injury" according to Sox Prospects. He's been on the minor-league disabled list for the entirety of June, and the injury came at a poor time, as Johnson had been pitching well leading up to his final start of May. This shoulder problem -- even without considering the severity of the injury -- is problematic for him, too, as he already missed time in 2012 after taking a line drive to the head at the Futures at Fenway game, and is now missing a significant chunk of development time in Low-A ball.
Injuries might keep Johnson from speeding through the system as quickly as expected, so, besides even the normal reasons to hope for health in a prospect, hope that Johnson can work back from the injury quickly and effectively.
Austin Maddox, RHP
Maddox has returned from injury -- again! -- and last pitched on June 23. He was awful in his initial return on June 12, giving up seven runs in five innings with three strikeouts and homers allowed. Things have gone better for him in the two relief stints he's made since, with Maddox punching out four against one walk in 3-1/3 scoreless frames, but the damage is obviously already done to his ERA.
Maddox has allowed at least five runs -- and as many as seven -- in five of his 14 appearances in 2013. Some struggles were to be expected, since he profiles as a reliever, not a starter, but it's still a little much. Homers remain the most significant hurdle for him, and until he learns to keep the ball down in the zone and command his offerings consistently, they aren't going to go away. That's not to say he's incapable of learning, by the way: Maddox could figure it out in time for his next appearance, or could wait until 2014 to sort through the issue. It's why he's in the minors, and it's just something he'll have to work through before he sees consistently positive results.
Cody Kukuk, LHP
In the last month, Kukuk has allowed just seven runs in 21-2/3 innings. That sounds good and all, but he's also walked 24 batters in that stretch, and while he also struck out 27, let's reiterate that he walked more batters than he threw innings. The unearned runs make it look a bit worse, but even then, he's been very lucky to pitch out of trouble as consistently as he has. It helps that he's been nigh unhittable in the minors, but that won't last forever, and likely has a lot to do with the fact that there's little point in swinging against him if he can't find the strike zone to begin with.
It's nearly July, so it's safe to dispense with likening his control problems to those of Henry Owens last year, another youthful lefty who spent his summer at Low-A Greenville. Owens was well past his initial issues by this point, even if his season line hadn't shown that fact yet -- Kukuk, if anything, is getting worse about the free passes. He'll stick at this level until that issue clears itself up, but given his youth and the fact lefties sometimes take a long while to get going on that sort of thing, it could be some time before we see progress we can trust.
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