There’s a big opportunity for a potential No. 5 starter for the Boston Red Sox this season.
With Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez slated to start the season on the disabled list, Brian Johnson is in a pretty good spot to take advantage of that opportunity.
Johnson was the Red Sox preferred depth starter last season and went 2-0 with a 4.33 ERA in five starts. Most notably, he hurled the team’s only complete game shutout of the year, so he is capable of giving the team good innings.
His competition for the spot includes Hector Velazquez and Roenis Elias, but he has clear advantages over both of those men.
Johnson is out of options, meaning he either makes the big league club or is put on waivers and yes, he sure as heck would be claimed. Elias straight up hasn’t done much since coming to the Red Sox system in 2016. He got shelled in two MLB starts in 2016 and didn’t pitch well in Pawtucket last year. Velazquez allowed four home runs in 14.1 innings over three big league starts last season. He’ an asset to the organization, but can go back down to the minors again.
The biggest obstacle for Johnson will be his own bad luck. I wrote about that before, and you can read all about it here.
Johnson had some issues with anxiety, but looked comfortable on the mound for the Red Sox as time progressed last season. He certainly looked pretty good in his first spring training outing this season.
He might not end up being the Red Sox No. 5 starter all year, but he is being stretched out and could help the team out in the bullpen. Surely, he could be a long man and get some lefties out in later innings. I’m sure he could at least fill the role Fernando Abad did last year.