Johnson to start Sunday as Sale pushed back

Johnson to start Sunday as Sale pushed back

MINNEAPOLIS -- Erik Johnson will start for the White Sox in Sunday's series finale at Kauffman Stadium, while Chris Sale moves back to a Labor Day afternoon home start against the Indians as announced by manager Robin Ventura on Thursday.

Johnson was named the International League Most Valuable Pitcher after putting together an impressive bounce-back campaign following up his 2014 struggles for both the White Sox and Triple-A Charlotte. The 25-year-old right-hander finished at 11-8 with a 2.37 ERA for the Knights and would have been with the big league team earlier if not for a healthy White Sox rotation and the team deciding not to pursue a trade for impending free agent Jeff Samardzija around the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

That big league callup was not as much of a focus for Johnson as simply following his routine and pitching well each time out with Charlotte.

"All I could do is go out there and pitch and do my best that fifth day," said Johnson during a recent interview. "I follow the team. I'm part of the organization, I'm going to be following them. But for me, everything that's in my corner, everything I can control with my routine and what I need to do to go back out there every fifth day, I'm going to do."

Johnson's last start came on Aug. 25 against Gwinnett, with his scheduled start this past Sunday having been scratched. General manager Rick Hahn made it clear on Tuesday that Johnson was next in line to get a September spot start, and there's a good chance that Johnson will get more than just this one on Sunday.

"Last year, when it was his first opportunity to be part of a big league rotation, he only had five starts under his belt, and it would have been easy for him to go back down to Charlotte and be frustrated with the offseason acquisitions that essentially blocked him from the 2015 rotation," said Hahn of Johnson. "Instead, he responded great.

"He was named International League Pitcher of the Year and started the All-Star Game for his division. It has really been a real solid year for him and put him back on the map as a prospect."

Sale enters Monday's start with 239 strikeouts, sitting second in the Majors behind Clayton Kershaw's 251. The southpaw should have five or six more starts, including Monday, in his pursuit of the single-season club strikeout record held by Ed Walsh, who struck out 269 in 1908. Sale also has an outside shot at a milestone 300-strikeout campaign.

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.