Believing in Brian Johnson

The old expression is “You gotta believe.” For pitcher Brian Johnson, believing he can assist the Red Sox in the bullpen is something for which he is responsible. Throughout his career, Johnson has gone through a roller coaster ride – from spot starts, to coming out of the bullpen for Boston. Looking for a greater role in 2019 will be interesting for Johnson.

On May 27th, 2017, Red Sox pitcher Brian Johnson did something that hasn’t been done in a Red Sox uniform since Pedro Martinez. Johnson pitched a complete game shut out against the Seattle Mariners. Where was I? Well, I was sitting in the bleachers, a few rows back from the bullpen, watching as Johnson threw strike after strike. The game lasted a little over two hours, which was remarkable.

For the guy who is like the underdog in the Red Sox organization, Johnson has been a constant presence in the Red Sox organization. For manager Alex Cora, relying on the veteran last season was key to the success this team had going into the postseason. Johnson had career highs in game appearances, as well as innings pitched.

From Starter to Reliever Back to Starter

Throughout his career in a Red Sox uniform, Johnson has been a spot starter for the Red Sox. In his 48 MLB appearances, only 19 of them have been starts. Johnson is 7-6 in his career, with a lifetime ERA of 4.69.

Following an injury to Clay Buchholz in 2015, Johnson was called up from Pawtucket, and made his MLB debut on July 21st of that season. He pitched in 4.1 innings in a loss to the Houston Astros. That game was the only one he would play in during the 2015 season, as he was sent back to Pawtucket.

The next time Johnson saw Major League action was in 2017. In that game, he pitched that remarkable shut out against the Seattle Mariners. Following that, he made four more starts for the Red Sox, going 2-0 with a 4.33 ERA.

In 2018, Cora used Brian Johnson quite a bit. He pitched in 38 games, while making 13 starts. Johnson went 4-5 with a 4.17 ERA last season, however, he was not added to the postseason roster.

Johnson, who is currently on the injured list, is part of the 2019 team. So far, he has pitched 4 games out of the bullpen, with all those games being on the road. On Opening Day at Fenway, Johnson was presented with his first championship ring. It was well earned too, due to the work he did during the 2018 season.

Can We Call Brian Johnson The Underdog?

For a guy whose career has been up and down, Johnson has been a consistent presence in the Red Sox organization. I think that he will continue to surprise us all when he runs out of the bullpen. Johnson has the ability to dominate in games. It’s just a matter of trust in his pitches.

Many might disagree when I say that Johnson is the secret weapon in the bullpen. However, when you look at what he has been able to accomplish and overcome in his life, he is truly one of the good guys.

The Lackey Report

John Lackey

Photo by: Matt Stone

John Lackey’s return to the mound proved he’s ready for his return.  With a 6-1 victory over the Houston Astros today he has a lot to be credited for.  Although it took time to find his comfort zone in the first inning, as the Astros scored their one and only run (with two walks and two hits), the top of the fourth arrived and he was aflame.  1, 2, 3, you’re out! Strike out #3.  As the top of the fifth unwound Lackey persevered and retired eleven Astros in a row.  It would be thirteen by the end of the sixth.

By the sixth inning Lackey held the Astros to just two hits in five innings making it a stellar performance. Lackey’s back, everyone, and better than ever; another strong asset to the improved Red Sox team. John Farrell is doing everything right by holding this team accountable and ready for whatever comes their way. I still am in awe by the way they swing their bats and how they run the bases.  At times it may be a little too aggressive, but in general the players are right on point.

The top of the sixth and only sixty-four pitches into the game, Farrell is happy with Lackey’s performance. He remains in the game even though Lackey was only supposed to pitch five innings, but why take a man out when all he does is show results? After all, the pitch count was low and he had retired thirteen Astros consecutively. Okay, if you were counting strike outs, it wasn’t Lackey’s day (by the end of the sixth inning which he fought his way, tooth and nail, out of) he had a total of four strike outs, but in general we couldn’t be more happy with the way things turned out. It was decided to retire Lackey as the sixth inning came to an end. The Astros were left with three men on base (a possible grand slam) but Lackey wasn’t finished. To end the inning, he struck out Astros, Martinez with a curve ball, and allowed a ground ball to Drew to get the last out at second.

What a nice finish for John Lackey.  He looks terrific. I’m glad to have him back.

Change in Attitude Will Help Doubront in His Game

FelixDoubront

The Red Sox surrendered four runs in a second inning that would prove the difference against the Yankees.

There is a shift in the Red Sox this season and it’s not only in the game, but it’s also in the players’ attitudes. Felix Doubront, a lefty bar none, has his head in the game this year (unlike last year) and is on the roster as No. 4 starter to pitch. Although he’s not No. 1, and his 2012 stats are eerie, he has proven to be up there with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Ryan Dempster, as spring training draws to an end. April 1 will come and although Doubront will not be on the mound, he still holds a spot because of his new found attitude, his perfectionism, and his drive.

The left handed pitcher took control this past July as he appeared sharp on the mound with a 4.37 ERA (down from 4.86 ERA, in 2011), and was 10-5 throughout the month. However, his inconsistencies lead him on a downward spiral where his opponents hit .351 off his supposed, steamy 93-96 mph pitches. He’s a young player and has more talent than most guys out there.  He still has much to overcome, but the potential is there. Upon reading Wednesday’s Boston Globe, “All the tools, ready to build” by Peter Abraham, I found a young man, (Felix Doubront), who is ready to take control, which means he is ready to adjust his attitude, and keep his head in the game. He admits he has much to work on, but within time, manager, John Farrell, sees another solid No. 1 starter in the team’s future.

“This year is going to be different.  I know that right away. When I’m on the mound I get so pumped. But I’m going to change that.”

Wednesday, March 20, was proof Felix Doubront truly needs to keep his head in the game, and continue to think solely about the pitching. The first inning against the Yankees he was gold. After all, he struck out two of only eight pitchers. It was when his defensive team began to make errors on the field, in the second inning, his mental state got the best of him, and things grew out of control. He even threw one in the dirt, sacrificing a run. This caused the Red Sox a 4-0 loss against their nemesis, our nemesis. Although it was a pretty uneventful game from the second inning on, that inning proved Felix Doubront has a lot of work to do to make it through to the top, and become the next Ryan Dempster. A change in attitude will help, but the problem is, he needs to get out of his comfort zone, step up, and make that change.