2015 was not exactly fair to Brian Johnson.
On July 11, he finally got the call to the majors, but it wouldn't be until the July 21 matchup against the Astros that he would get to make his first start. Said start was rough, there's no denying it. Four runs in just over four innings is not great. Four walks to three strikeouts is, likewise, not great.
But this is about how 2015 was unfair to Brian Johnson, not simply unkind. That game against Houston? It was his first time on the mound in over two weeks. In fact, dating back nearly a month, Johnson had thrown only six innings. Not because he couldn't, but because the Sox were bouncing him around levels in the midst of All-Star activities. In an odd scheduling stretch, Johnson sort of slipped through the cracks, leaving him facing the biggest game of his life coated with a fine layer of rust.
So that game didn't go well, but it wasn't really something he could be blamed for. At least he'd get his chance to get into a rhythm and--
Oh, no, nevermind, immediately injured. Alright then.
That's just how it went for Johnson. We could try to draw lines of cause and effect here, but suffice it to say Brian Johnson never quite got the shot he deserved after consistently crushing the minor league competition.
And now? Now it's going to be a bit harder to get his next chance. Henry Owens stepped in when Johnson went down and pitched quite well for a 22-year-old rookie. If he's not the sixth starter right now, then it's Roenis Elias, who came over from Seattle in the Wade Miley trade. And that's all assuming Steven Wright is just a bullpen guy which, well, who knows?
There's a lot of uncertainty in this rotation, yes, but also a lot of depth, and Johnson may well find himself at the end of that particular line in 2016 due to matters almost entirely out of his control..And that's if he's healthy, which is still a point of concern after last year.
For Brian Johnson, this is bad news. For the Red Sox? It's quite good. Johnson is not your typical seventh, eighth, maybe even ninth starter. He's an MLB-ready prospect. The sort of pitcher a team might go into the season with at #5 as the fresh man from the farm system, ready to put in good work for low money.
Ultimately, if things go well for Boston this season, that might mean Brian Johnson will head elsewhere. Indeed, in a league where Ian Kennedy costs $70 million, Johnson could end up looking like quite the attractive bargain to any number of teams out there. But for now, it's going to be back to the minor leagues. Back to Pawtucket, where he produced a 2.53 ERA over 96 innings in his first exposure to the top level of the minors. Back to a grind that he has never once failed to master. It may come later than he'd hoped, and later than the Red Sox had planned, but if he manages to master it once more, Brian Johnson's window will come again.
- Yoan Moncada
- Andrew Benintendi
- Rafael Devers
- Anderson Espinoza
- Michael Kopech
- Brian Johnson
Time for number seven! Voting with recs in the comments as usual. I think by now you all know the drill.