Pawtucket’s Brian Johnson Exits Start Against Durham With Injury

DURHAM, N.C.—All things considered, it could have been worse for Pawtucket lefthander Brian Johnson on Saturday night. Johnson, who appeared on track to head to Boston to make his next start after Red Sox southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez was injured earlier this week, left his start after 1.2 innings when he slipped on the mound and tweaked his right hamstring.

Johnson was removed from the game, but manager Kevin Boles said afterward that the move was precautionary and, although it’s not clear if he will miss a turn in the rotation, he wasn’t overly concerned.

“He slipped on the mound and just extended his knee a little bit,” Boles said. “It’s just for precautionary reasons, obviously. He pitched last time in the big leagues, and we’re just going to err on the side of caution. He said (the hamstring) grabbed on him a little bit, so we’re going to err on the side of caution.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Johnson left the game because of a cramp.

By any standard, Saturday’s injury seems minor, but that’s especially true considering the bumps throughout Johnson’s career. In 2012, just after he was selected in the first round out of Florida, Johnson was struck in the face by a line drive. His 2015 season was shortened by irritation in his pitching elbow, and he sought treatment for anxiety in the middle of last season.

Johnson was stellar on May 27 in the big leagues, when he spun a five-hit shutout with no walks and eight strikeouts against Seattle. Against Durham on Saturday, Johnson looked big league-ready as well. Before the injury he’d recorded five outs, all strikeouts, and surrendered a pair of singles. He’d flummoxed the Bulls by commanding his three-pitch mix low in the zone. He threw strikes with 19 of his 26 pitches.

He sat between 84-88 mph with his fastball and got swings and misses with both a low-80s changeup and a downer curveball in the low 70s. Boles said there were no tests scheduled on Johnson, and that he looked excellent before the injury.

“He looked really good,” Boles said. “He was pounding the zone. It carried over from his last start in the big leagues and he’s really pitched well here.”

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