LONDON -- The Red Sox will be without Brian Johnson indefinitely, as the lefty was placed on the 10-day injured list on Saturday, retroactive to Thursday, with a non-baseball-related medical matter that was discovered during routine testing by the club’s medical staff.
The only timetable the club has provided for now is that Johnson is expected to return to pitching this season.
“Out of respect for [Johnson], I’m not going to get into the situation, but he’s OK,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “He’s actually in Fenway playing catch and all that stuff. It’s something, we do routine checks on guys and something popped up, so we have to take care of him. But he’ll be fine. He’s actually working out in Fenway and Dr. [Larry] Ronan is overseeing the whole thing, so everything is going to be OK.”
To replace Johnson on the roster, the Red Sox activated righty Hector Velazquez from the injured list. Velazquez was one of two players on the taxi squad in London.
Johnson returned from a left elbow injury to start on June 16 and was inserted into the fifth spot in the rotation, which had been in flux since mid-April when Nathan Eovaldi underwent right elbow surgery.
With Eovaldi’s comeback slowed by a recent case of right biceps tendinitis, that spot is now in flux again, though the Sox will need it just once before the All-Star break.
David Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello will start the three games in Toronto from Tuesday to Thursday. Eduardo Rodriguez will take the ball Friday in Detroit. The team will have to choose a fifth starter for Saturday or go with an opener. Velazquez is an obvious candidate. Price is expected to pitch the final game before the All-Star break in Detroit.
Velazquez had been out with a low back strain that he re-injured in his first game back on June 18, when he pitched four innings in a 17-inning loss to the Twins.
As expected, first baseman Sam Travis was officially added to the roster as the 26th man for the two games in London.
Benny bats fifth
When Andrew Benintendi missed the last two games before London with “heavy legs,” Rafael Devers took over in the No. 2 spot in the lineup and went 7-for-9 with four doubles.
With that in mind, Cora kept Devers in the two-hole on Saturday and batted Benintendi fifth for the first time this season.
“Everybody was asking about Raffy hitting second yesterday, so I slept [on] it and decided to go with Raffy hitting second,” said Cora. “It really doesn’t matter. Benny is swinging the bat well, too. Just bunching up those guys up there, Mookie [Betts], Raffy, Xander [Bogaerts] and J.D. [Martinez]. Benny has done a good job throughout the season getting on base, hitting with men in scoring position, although that just happens. Put him in that spot, he’ll be OK.”
Cora: We will look at the standings when it’s time
With June about to end and the Red Sox entering Saturday trailing the Yankees by nine games in the American League East, Cora isn’t ready to shift the goals he had when the season started.
“Our goal is not to win the Wild Card. Our goal is to play better and win the World Series again,” said Cora. “We’ve been inconsistent throughout the season. We know that. I’ve been saying all along, until we start playing consistent baseball, then we’ll look [at the standings]. It’s hard not to look because in Fenway, you look right in front of you and the standings are right there. It’s not easy to forget, but I’ve been saying all along, until we get there and we start playing consistently, then we’ll look up and see where we’re at and we take off. Hopefully we can take off here in London.”
Bogaerts feels underrated
Bogaerts is having the finest overall first half of his career and leads all AL players at shortstop in OPS. Yet he wasn’t even one of the three finalists to start the All-Star Game. Minnesota’s Jorge Polanco, who is having a terrific season, was voted in as the starter. Bogaerts, who last made the All-Star team in 2016, is a candidate to be named as a reserve on Sunday.
Does Bogaerts feel like his strong first half was underrated?
“Yeah, I would say so,” Bogaerts said. “But obviously, if our team was in a better position, things would’ve been different. But that’s the way it is right now. Our focus should be on these last few games that we have. Had a tough loss at home last game. Just coming here, different city, hopefully we have some better luck these couple of games and head back to the U.S. with momentum.”