Brian Johnson

Tuesday's Red Sox-Astros matchups: Brian Johnson vs. Vincent Velasquez

July 21, 2015 - 4:33 am
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The anticpated major league debut of Brian Johnson will happen Tuesday for the Red Sox as the left-hander toes the rubber in Houston against fellow rookie Vincent Velasquez and the Astros. Clay Buchholz's injury and Joe Kelly's well-documented struggles in the Sox rotation forced manager John Farrell to call up Johnson, perhaps before the organization intended. "Just the way things are falling," Farrell said Friday of the decision. "Brian'€™s on that extended rest at this point, he threw an extended bullpen [Thursday] in advance of Tuesday, probably get in a light one on Sunday before Tuesday'€™s start." Johnson, 24, gets the call after tearing up the minors during his three-year stint in the Red Sox organization. Having spent the season in Triple-A Pawtucket, he has racked up an 8-6 record, a 2.73 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 85 2/3 innings pitched. In 2014, he moved up from High-A Salem to Double-A Portland after five starts, going 10-2 the rest of the way with a 1.75 ERA and just 78 hits allowed in 118 innings. Known primarily as a finesse pitcher, Johnson does not have overpowering stuff but has solid command over his pitches, according to scouts. His fastball sits in the 89-93 mph range and he uses it to work both sides of the plate. A sweeping curveball is his best secondary offering. The 6-foot-4 southpaw uses the curve to backdoor right-handed hitters on the outside part of the plate and to work the inner half down and in. He also utilizes a changeup in the 83-86 mph range which he throws to keep hitters off balance. The Red Sox drafted Johnson out of the University of Florida with the 31st overall pick in the 2012 draft. Originally, he was taken by the Dodgers in the 27th round of the 2009 draft, but instead of signing he chose to go to college to refine his skills at the Division 1 level. His successful career as a Gator indicates he made the right decision. He left school as a junior with 22 career wins in hand and a 3.85 ERA. He also earned the 2012 John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award, the first-ever Gator to earn the accolade. Taking the mound for the Astros will be Velasquez, another top draft pick and prized prospect. Selected in the second round of the 2010 draft, Velasquez has shown he belongs in the major leagues through six starts. The right-hander sports an 0-1 record with a 3.94 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 32 innings pitched. Velasquez came up with Lance McCullers earlier this season as part of the Astros' playoff push by way of a potent farm system. Velasquez, unlike Johnson, is known as a power pitcher. He's armed with a fastball that rides up in the high-90s at times and a breaking ball that has helped limit opponents to a .194 batting average in 36 at-bats. In order to spell his 23-year-old arm, the Astros optioned Velasquez back to the minors after his July 7 start, a 6 1/3 inning, two-run effort against the Indians. His career-high innings total for a season is just 124 2/3, which he reached in 2013, so Astros manager A.J. Hinch and the front office intend to keep a careful eye on the right-hander throughout the season. "It's not pleasant news, but they're looking out for me," Velasquez said following the 2-0 loss vs. the Indians. "I think I'll be fully refreshed." A rested Velasquez might be a worrisome sight for the Red Sox, but fortunately for them, the California native has not pitched well at home this season. At Minute Maid Park he owns a 5.71 ERA in three starts, a stark contrast from his 1.84 ERA on the road. Red Sox vs. Velasquez (RHP) No Red Sox have faced Velasquez. Astros vs. Johnson (LHP) No Astros have faced Johnson.

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