Entering the 2018 Major League Baseball season, Brian Johnson never had pitched out the bullpen.
That all changed after the Boston Red Sox pitcher was asked by team president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and manager Alex Cora to pitch in a relief role after making one start against the Miami Marlins.
The left-hander thought the transition wouldn’t be a difficult one, but learned quickly it wasn’t going to be easy. Through his first 10 appearances out of the pen, Johnson had a 9.00 ERA, giving up 13 earned runs in 13 innings of work.
“You’re still pitching 60 feet, 6 inches. It’s just a different situation of the game,” Johnson said, via MassLive’s Christopher Smith. “So going into it, I thought it was going to be much easier of a transition.”
The southpaw worked through the struggles, though, and it showed in his last 11 outings, toting a 2.12 ERA while giving up four earned runs through 17 innings. Even though he began to see success in the later innings, Boston transitioned Johnson back to the starting role due to injuries to Drew Pomeranz, Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez.
Although Johnson said he never wants to see a teammate get hurt, it’s the reason he’s been able to start for the Red Sox, and knows he needs to make the most of every outing.
“I guess when you have the opportunity, it’s huge to take advantage of it because you only get a small window of opportunity,” Johnson told Smith. “So it’s definitely big when you have the opportunity to do it.”
Johnson’s biggest adjustment? Attacking hitters who were getting ready to take their second or third at-bat of the game.
“When I had those bad outings, I was pitching like a starter,” he said. “I didn’t really understand the different mentality until you go out there for an extended period of time. When you come out of the bullpen, that guy’s ready to swing.”
Although the 27-year-old said it took “a bit” to figure out how to handle batters as a reliever, he began to get himself into a rhythm and became a trusted arm out of the bullpen.
But now, Johnson has figured out how to transition from a starter to a reliever back to a starter, and he’s been able to help Boston win games en route to one of its most successful seasons to date.
Thumbnail photo via Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images
Powered by WordPress.com VIP