Red Sox Notes: Brian Johnson Continues To Come Through As Starter

Brian Johnson has been called upon three times this season to make a start, and each time he’s gone out the Boston Red Sox have won.

So while his numbers may not always jump off the page, one thing is abundantly clear: Johnson is doing exactly what he needs to do as a spot starter.

The southpaw went 4 2/3 innings in Tuesday night’s 11-4 win over the Washington Nationals, allowing two runs on eight hits with a pair of strikeouts and as many walks.

It has been an interesting ride so far for Johnson. He made the club out of spring training in part due to a lack of minor league options as well as a solid camp. And since then, he’s been thrown into a variety of roles both as a reliever and starter.

“Yeah, I knew that was my role going into it,” Johnson said after the game, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “Alex (Cora) and Dana (LeVangie) and Dave (Dombrowski) — I knew my role right when I got told I made the club. Whenever I was going to get the chance to start I’ve got to take advantage of it, and whenever I go to the bullpen, I’ve got to be willing to eat up some innings and do what I can.

Such a role is tough, as the way he warms up and the distances he has to go in a game can vary by the day.

As such, Johnson was lifted with runners on first and second with two outs in the fifth inning. And though he wanted to finish the inning out, Cora instead pulled him for Heath Hembree. Following the game, Cora explained why he didn’t let Johnson complete the fifth.

“It’s a team win,” Cora said. “He went for four innings to almost 80 (pitches) or whatever he had, and under those conditions it felt like it was more. But he understands, he gave us a chance to win, be ready for the next one.”

With Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz still on the disabled list, it is unclear how long Johnson’s run in the rotation will continue. But the Red Sox can rest assured that if they need to turn to him, he’ll be more than able to fulfill his duty.

Here are some other notes from Tuesday’s Red Sox-Nationals game:

— Mitch Moreland exited Tuesday’s game with back spasms.

The first baseman was replaced with Steve Pearce, and after the game Cora noted it wasn’t one particular thing that set off the spasms. But with Wednesday’s game coming in the morning, coupled with the fact the Sox are off Thursday, the skipper is erring on the side of caution.

“He’s doing OK, back spasms, Cora said. “I wasn’t planning on playing him tomorrow, so definitely he won’t play tomorrow now. (We’ll) take advantage of the two days, tomorrow and the off day, and see if he’s ready to play on Friday.

“He fought a little bit to stay in the game but it’s not worth it,” Cora added. “We’re not going to take a chance.”

— Tyler Thornburg will make his long-awaited return to the 25-man roster Wednesday. Cora said the right-handed reliever will be activated in the morning, with William Cuevas getting sent down as a result.

It has been a long road for Thornburg, who has not pitched for the Red Sox due to injury since being acquired prior to the 2017 season. Though he was a premier eighth-inning arm with the Milwaukee Brewers before getting sent to Boston, expect him in lower-leverage roles for easily the foreseeable future.

— J.D. Martinez hit his league-leading 26th home run in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game.

— The Red Sox own the most wins in Major League Baseball with 58, while also boasting the best win percentage in the league.

Thumbnail photo via Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports Images

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