BOSTON - The Red Sox’ thin starting pitching depth is being tested two weeks into the season.
Lefty Brian Johnson is set to make his 2017 Red Sox debut on Tuesday in Toronto in place of Eduardo Rodriguez, who was placed on the paternity list Monday for the birth of his second child.
Righty reliever Ben Taylor was added in place of Rodriguez on Monday, but his stay is likely to be short with Johnson joining the team Tuesday.
Johnson’s one of the top depth options the Sox have next to Kyle Kendrick, whose minor league season has not had a stellar beginning. Johnson, unlike Kendrick, can be freely moved between the major leagues and the minors.
Johnson was in major league camp in spring training but his stuff wasn’t playing up as it had in the past.
“Strike-throwing has been good. Percentage of strikes has been much-improved,” John Farrell said. “Sharpness to the secondary stuff is there. The velocity is probably not to where it was two spring's ago, but improved over a year. He's been through quite a bit. Looking forward to the opportunity for him tomorrow.”
Johnson, 26, has not had the easiest road. He was a first-round pick in 2012 who had his first pro start cut short because of a line drive to the face while pitching for short-season Lowell. He made his major league debut for the Red Sox in with a spot start in July of 2015 (four runs in 4 1/3 innings). He missed time last year with anxiety. This year, he took a batted ball to the head again — this time the back of the head.
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“Two starts ago. A line drive hit him in the back of the head and I spoke to him the next morning,” Farrell said. “He was fine. I think he was eager to get back on the mound. We know what took place when he first signed here.
"I think that kind of says a lot about maybe the mental strength that he's taking everything with, from the strike-throwing issues of a year ago, to being hit four years, to a recent one. I think it says a lot about the resiliency and the competitiveness that is there right now.”