Masterson pitches in relief; is door open for Johnson?


BOSTON - If you told Justin Masterson at the beginning of the season that he'd come on to pitch the ninth inning of a game in July, he'd assume that meant eight dominant innings by him before it.

But it hasn't been that type of season for Masterson.

After being removed from the rotation and placed on the DL in hopes of getting some arm strength back, Masterson returned to the Red Sox and made two starts for them before he was sent to the team's bullpen on Tuesday.

Three days later, he made his first relief appearance of the season, coming on in the ninth inning with the Sox trailing, 5-1.

But hand it to Masterson, as he got the Yankees' power hitters out in order. Alex Rodriguez grounded out, Mark Teixeira popped out and Brian McCann grounded out.

He needed just nine pitches to get the job done.

"An inning of work, put the ball on the ground," John Farrell said of Masterson. "Threw strikes. He led a couple of guys off with some breaking balls but he had good late sink at the plate."

While it may not be the role Masterson really wants, it's no secret that the Red Sox could use all the bullpen help they can get. Masterson, who pitched out of the bullpen early in his career with the Red Sox and was moved there with the Cardinals last season, has experience in the role and can make an easier transition than most starting pitchers.

There's also the fact that PawSox starting pitcher Brian Johnson has been knocking on the door to make his Major League debut for a bit now, and after the All-Star break seems like an ideal time for that to happen. Johnson is 8-6 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He has 81 strikeouts over 85.2 innings.

Johnson seems like the most likely candidate to slide right into the currently vacant spot in the Red Sox rotation left by Masterson, and doing so may help fix two problems.

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