Johnson wrong fit for Red Sox

Johnson wrong fit for Red Sox

BOSTON -- Jason Johnson was not the answer for the Boston Red Sox, unless the question was: "How are the other guys going to score more runs?"

Johnson's relatively brief tenure with the Sox ended Friday, after he was the starting and losing pitcher in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader against the New York Yankees. He came into this game 3-11 with a 6.26 ERA. He left 3-12 with a 6.35 ERA. Progress was not being noted.

The Red Sox designated Johnson for assignment after the 12-4 loss to the Yankees, thus clearing a spot for reliever Keith Foulke to be activated from the disabled list. The Red Sox had been in the strange position of starting a pitcher in the first game of a crucial series who was, barring a career-turning performance, on his way off the team.

"There were some extenuating circumstances," manager Terry Francona said. "I don't think we had many options."

Unfortunate for the Sox, but true. Johnson had made six appearances for Boston and had won none of them, although in fairness, he did leave an Aug. 6 start with a 6-2 lead that the bullpen later surrendered. Apart from that, his work was not up to the standards of a contending team.

The Red Sox obtained Johnson from the Indians. He was available because he wasn't doing the job in Cleveland, either. But he had been in the Majors for a decade. He had enjoyed some success along the way, and the thought was that he could at least be serviceable, at least pitch competently for a Boston rotation that had been hit by injuries.

Theoretically, Friday could have been a turning point for Johnson. Instead, it was an ending point.

Johnson was competent over the first four innings, giving up one run. But it all came apart with one out in the fifth. Four straight Yankees reached base against him and three of them scored, turning a 1-1 game into a 4-1 game. A walk to Melky Cabrera was followed by a Johnny Damon home run, which in turn was followed by singles by Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu. Francona pulled Johnson at that point, but the damage had already been done.

"When you get to your bullpen when we did, the Yankees have a way of making you pay for it," Francona said.

The Red Sox, who came in trailing the Yankees by 1 1/2 games in the AL East, and the White Sox by 2 1/2 games in the AL Wild Card, needed a breakthrough performance from Johnson. What they got instead was what they had received from him in all but one of his starts: a performance with which they could not reasonably hope to succeed.

So the beginning of this five-game series provided no help for the Red Sox on either the division or Wild Card front. If it provided anything, it was the solace of the notion that they would no longer be attempting to prevail in the race for the postseason with a starter who clearly was not up to the task at hand.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.