Ominous rumors have surrounded the Boston Red Sox starting rotation since well before the 2015 season began — even before Spring Training began. Would Boston deal for an “ace” like Philadelphia left Cole Hamels? Would designated Number One starter Clay Buchholz even muster the desire, much less the physical endurance, to fill the “ace” role?
How would Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington deal with what were seen as the inevitable struggles of the pitching staff, particularly the five starters? None of that group — Joe Kelly, Rock Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson and Buchholz — has ever proven capable of taking on the responsibilities of a so-called “ace” starting pitcher.
But do the Red Sox already have an “ace” in their midst, or at least on their payroll, just waiting for the shot to make his Fenway debut?
Judging by the early season numbers posted by 24-year-old Brian Johnson, the answer is, yes, they just might.
Though the Red Sox picked Johnson in the first round of the 2012 draft, 31st overall, the stocky left hander has made his mark rather quietly. The SoxProspects.com site, which evaluates every prospect in the Red Sox system, ranked him only seventh in the organization as of April 9, and projected Johnson as a “number four or five starter” with a “four average pitch mix with solid-average command and control.”
As The Inquisitr reported in an earlier write-up on Johnson, his fastball can top out at 95, but most often comes in the low 90s or even high 80 mph territory.
But Johnson seems to have put it all together, suddenly. After an impressive Spring Training, he was dispatched to the team’s longtime Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
The southpaw has now started three games for the PawSox, and look at his numbers — admittedly in a small sample size, but impressive nonetheless.
Johnson has put up an incredible ERA of 0.56 in his 16 innings, which include a complete game shutout — in a seven-inning contest — against the Buffalo Bison on April 21.
Johnson has 18 strikeouts and a stellar WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 0.875, with a strikeout to walk ratio of 4.5 to one. In fact, Johnson has permitted just one earned run and two runs total so far.
Appearing on WEEI radio this week, Red Sox assistant General Manager Mike Hazen was peppered with questions about when Boston fans could expect to see Johnson at Fenway.
But Hazen was noncommittal.
“We love having players down there that are going to come up and contribute. We know we’re not getting through the season with 25 men, we know we’re not getting through the season with 40 men,” Hazen said. “It’s great to have guys in [Eduardo] Rodriguez, [Henry] Owens, [Brian] Johnson and [Matt] Barnes down there throwing well. But, they are still in Triple-A, they’re not in the big leagues.”
Of course, that is true, but if the Red Sox starting rotation — whose collective 5.49 ERA ranked them 28th out of the 32 MLB teams as of Wednesday — continues to flounder, rumors of the University of Florida product’s quick promotion to Boston will reach a deafening pitch, and we’ll see how long Cherington can resist making the move to bring Brian Johnson to Fenway.
[Image: Stacy Revere/Getty Images]