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Brian Johnson is no Chris Sale, but he has quietly answered call in other spot starts

John Tomase
August 02, 2018 - 1:20 am

The Red Sox can effectively put away the Yankees this weekend, and to kick off that task they're turning to . . . Brian Johnson?

The young left-hander wasn't supposed to start Thursday's series opener, but then Chris Sale landed on the disabled list with mild shoulder inflammation and manager Alex Cora had basically nowhere else to turn, not with Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez on the disabled list, and Nathan Eovaldi and Drew Pomeranz already added to the rotation.

So Johnson will take the hill in the opener, followed by Rick Porcello, Eovaldi, and David Price. Say what you want about Johnson, but it's worth noting he has answered the bell when called upon to start.

Johnson is 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA in six starts. Because he's a swingman who has been thrust into the rotation by injuries to the likes of Pomeranz, Price, and now Sale, he has been restricted to 75-85 pitches per outing, limiting his innings. But even in five-inning stints, he has proven effective.

He beat the Marlins in his season debut with six innings of one-run ball, and he has also delivered effective outings vs. the Twins (5 2/3 shutout innings) and Tigers (5 IP, 0 ER).

"I feel great," Johnson said. "Just got to keep rolling."

He'll face a depleted Yankees lineup missing slugger Aaron Judge, who'll be sidelined for most if not all of August with a broken wrist. The same goes for catcher Gary Sanchez, on the DL with a groin injury.

Remove those two right-handed sluggers, and the Yankees' terrifying destruction of left-handed pitching loses much of its ferocity, which gives Johnson a fighting chance.

"We're fine," Cora said. "I mean, B.J. has done a good job, and then we have Rick, Nathan and David. So, it's a good day off (Wednesday) to reset the bullpen. We know where we're at. We know where they're at. Just, come out here and play good baseball."

Johnson looks forward to the challenge. The Red Sox hope this will be a one-and-done affair, with Sale expected to make his next start next week against the Blue Jays.

"I'm excited," Johnson said. "You don't want to see anybody get hurt, and obviously Chris has done his part this year. It's time for us to step up for him. It's exciting for sure, but I'm going to treat it as much as I can like another outing."

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