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Mariners, Red Sox turn to fresh arms

MLB.com

Saturday's game between the Red Sox and Mariners will feature a matchup of pitchers with seven career starts between them. Boston left-hander Brian Johnson will make his first career start at Fenway Park after being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday.

Right-hander Rob Whalen will make his season debut for the Mariners; he was 1-2 with a 6.57 ERA in five starts for Atlanta last year. The right-hander missed most of Spring Training with shoulder and calf issues.

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Saturday's game between the Red Sox and Mariners will feature a matchup of pitchers with seven career starts between them. Boston left-hander Brian Johnson will make his first career start at Fenway Park after being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday.

Right-hander Rob Whalen will make his season debut for the Mariners; he was 1-2 with a 6.57 ERA in five starts for Atlanta last year. The right-hander missed most of Spring Training with shoulder and calf issues.

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Whalen was called up from Triple-A Tacoma on Wednesday to provide bullpen depth if needed, but wasn't used. He spent a day with Seattle on May 5 as a long-relief option, but wasn't called on to pitch.

"I'm extremely excited," Whalen said. "The one day I came up and didn't get to throw was a little disappointing, but [general manager] Jerry [Dipoto] promised there'd be opportunities here when I got traded and that's all I can ask for."

As for Johnson (1-0, 7.20 ERA), this will be the lefty's second spot start of the season; he won his first Major League game in Boston's 8-7 win over Toronto on April 18 after giving up four runs in five innings.

"We've seen a gradual increase in his stuff overall," Boston manager John Farrell said of the club's No. 11 prospect. "There's been better crispness, there's been better strike throwing, there's the ability to put away guys with a breaking ball, a slight uptick in velocity, and I think more than anything the two years that Brian in his own journey has gone through, he's coming out the backside of it and regaining the form."

Reliever Ben Taylor was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket after Friday's 3-0 win to free up a roster spot for Johnson.

Three things to know about this game

• Whalen will become the 43rd player used this season by the Mariners and their 12th starting pitcher, both the most in the Majors. The club has 10 players on the disabled list, including starting pitchers Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly.

• Of the Mariners' 49 home runs, only five have come off left-handers. Nelson Cruz, Seattle's leader in home runs with 12, has three of the five.

• Dustin Pedroia will likely be back in the Red Sox's lineup Saturday after the second baseman exited Thursday's game against the Rangers with a left knee injury. Farrell said Pedroia was held out of the series opener for precautionary reasons.

Evan Chronis is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston.

Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners, Brian Johnson, Rob Whalen