Prospect Johnson rebounds from beaning to win award
Righty club's Minor League Pitcher of the Year; Betts best offensive player
BOSTON -- Saturday was a much happier occasion for Red Sox pitching prospect Brian Johnson than the last time he stepped on the field at Fenway Park.
This time, the lefty was recognized as the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year. On Aug. 18, 2012, pitching at the Futures of Fenway game, Johnson was struck in the face by a line drive and suffered multiple orbital bone fractures.
"It's exciting," Johnson said. "I'm happy to be back. I'm here for a positive reason instead of a negative reason. I'm really happy to be here."
The 23-year-old Johnson is coming off a stellar season, one in which he went 13-3 with a 2.13 ERA (34 ER/143.2 IP) and 132 strikeouts compared to 39 walks in 25 starts combined between high Class A Salem and Double-A Portland. He posted the best ERA among qualifying Red Sox farmhands and ranked among organization leaders in wins (third) and strikeouts (second).
It has been a gratifying turn of events for Johnson, considering what he went through a couple of years ago.
"At first, it was physical because I couldn't eat for about six weeks. That was the tough part of it," Johnson said. "After that, it was more mental, going out there with the aspect of getting a W for my team and going out there competing with my team from the sense of, I thought a successful outing at first was just not getting hit again."
Only a pitcher who goes through something like that can truly understand what it's like to climb back on the horse.
"At first, I was kind of gun shy, I was flinching bad," Johnson said. "The best thing for me was just to keep getting out there, go out there, go out there and go out there again so I got over it."
When did Johnson truly feel he was over it?
"I'd say about halfway through last year," Johnson said. "I started to feel in sync at the end of last year. I started to feel like my old self."
The Red Sox unveiled all their Minor League award winners before Saturday's game.
Shortstop Deven Marrero received the Defensive Player of the Year Award, and was thrilled to be in Fenway on the day Derek Jeter was playing in his second-to-last Major League game.
"It's awesome. That's someone who I want to be," said Marrero. "I want to be the Derek Jeter of the Red Sox. That's my goal. He does everything right. He plays the game hard. He's a champion. That's all I want to be. To see him finish out like this is so cool. I really wish I could have played with him on the same field, but I just want to continue his legacy. I hope I can continue that in Boston."
Mookie Betts, who has excelled for the Red Sox in recent weeks, earned the club's Offensive Player of the Year. Manuel Margot is the Baserunner of the Year. Outfielder Rawinson Lameda is the Latin Program Player of the Year, while righty Daniel Gonzalez earned the Latin Program Pitcher of the Year. Catcher Dan Butler, who is finishing the season in the Majors, got the Lou Gorman Award, given annually to a player who demonstrated dedication and perseverance.