Johnson among first four White Sox callups

Right-hander named '15 International League Most Valuable Pitcher

Johnson among first four White Sox callups

MINNEAPOLIS -- If not for an extremely healthy 2015 White Sox starting rotation, Erik Johnson would have been up with the big league team earlier than when rosters expanded Tuesday.

Instead, the right-handed hurler joined fellow right-handed pitcher Frankie Montas, catcher Rob Brantly and utility player Leury Garcia as the first wave of callups prior to Tuesday night's series opener against the Twins at Target Field. Johnson bounced back from a dismal rookie campaign with the White Sox and Triple-A Charlotte to earn the '15 International League's Most Valuable Pitcher honors.

"He's already accomplished a great deal in 2015 and should head into the offseason with a great deal of confidence and the feeling that he's very much back in the mix," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. "You want him to do well here and have a good experience at the big league level. But after what he has accomplished in the first five months, it's a little bit secondary in terms of assessing his season."

"He'd like another shot at it, so see where he's at," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Johnson's second chance. "You get another year of maturity and that knowledge of being up here last year, going through it this year and you're going to see how that ends up."

Hahn admitted that Johnson is ahead of the hard-throwing Montas -- the club's No. 3 prospect, according to MLB.com -- in terms of getting September starting opportunities, with Montas scheduled to work primarily out of the bullpen for the White Sox. The 25-year-old Johnson posted an 11-8 record with a 2.37 ERA for the Knights, while striking out 136 over 132 2/3 innings. He held opponents to a .224 average.

A stellar September in 2013 put Johnson in the '14 rotation, only to have him return to Charlotte after five starts and a 6.46 ERA. The White Sox added Jeff Samardzija via an offseason trade, and the emergence of Carlos Rodon along with Johnson's previous struggles blocked his chance to break camp with the team. But Johnson worked hard in Charlotte and figured out a routine and a path to follow to make him successful.

"For me, it was really tempo, rhythm, being on time with your arm. That's what I've preached all season," Johnson said. "Just doing what I felt I needed to do to keep that rhythm, to keep that tempo and that consistency every time I go out.

"Routine is the biggest thing that leads you to predictability. It's almost a soothing feeling where I can go do my routine and get what I need to get done, so I feel prepared and I feel ready for that fifth day. It's almost like knocking down dominoes."

Those dominoes will fall out of the bullpen at the outset for Johnson. But a starting chance should come his way once again soon.

"I actually told that to Erik directly when I saw him this afternoon," Hahn said. "I said, 'Look, from your perspective, it's probably a problem. From our perspective, it's a good problem to have and that's that guys were able to take the ball every fifth day.' He's had an excellent year."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.