Versatility aiding Johnson's cause with Red Sox

March 10th, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As reached the dugout steps following the first inning, all he could do was flash a smile toward his teammates and shake his head. Tuesday's game definitely did not start out in his favor.

Though Johnson never really got a feel for his curveball during the Red Sox’s 3-2 win against the Cardinals at JetBlue Park, he did regain command of his game shortly afterward. The left-hander walked the first batter of the second inning, then induced a groundout followed by a double play to end the threat.

Johnson gained steam each frame, allowing just a single in the third to round out his day with three hits, two runs, three walks and a strikeout.

I don’t think there was a change in game plan [after the first inning], I think it was more of a, ‘Just take a deep breath’ and not let it affect my next two innings,” he said of the opening frame. “What’s done is done, and I can’t change that. I really just wanted to attack the zone and work more glove side, because I was missing up arm side a lot.”

With Spring Training more than half over, every start is of the utmost importance to guys like Johnson who are looking to be one of 26 to head north with the team. The non-roster invitee is still very much in the mix with a Red Sox pitching staff that has little set in stone, and every outing is an opportunity for a push.

“A little wide in the first inning; hurt him, obviously,” Boston manager Ron Roenicke said. “BJ is a command guy. He’s got great feel for his curveball, he usually throws his fastball where he wants to. He’ll elevate it when he needs to, and he couldn’t do that right off.”

Johnson is able to float from the rotation to the bullpen with ease, a versatility that the 29-year-old could use to his advantage as a lefty used in long relief or as an opener, should Boston toy with that option again this year. It’s an idea he’s willing to embrace and one that would play to his strengths as far as flexibility goes.

“I feel like I know what I want to do now as a starter, and what I want to do out of the ’pen, so it’s just a little different mindset,” Johnson said.

“The only thing I can do is go out there every five days or whenever they tell me to, whether it’s out of the ‘pen or as a starter, and really go out there and do what I can,” he added. “The rest is up to them, and I just look forward for the opportunity to fight for that spot.”