Johnson eager to break through in '16

Sox's No. 3 prospect healthy after hurting elbow last year

Johnson eager to break through in '16

BOSTON -- Considering that Red Sox left-hander Brian Johnson missed the final two months of 2015 with elbow woes, the health update he provided heading into Spring Training was an encouraging one.

"One hundred percent, good to go," Johnson told MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo at MLB's annual Rookie Career Development Program in Virginia last weekend.

This is important news for the Red Sox, because there's a strong chance Johnson, who is Boston's No. 3 prospect, will be the organization's next starting pitching prospect to make the leap to Fenway Park.

If Johnson can get into a rhythm to start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, he could put himself in position to come up and help at the Major League level like Eduardo Rodriguez did last year.

After a spotty Major League debut in Houston just after the All-Star break, Johnson was sent back to Triple-A for two more starts, only to be shut down for the season with an ulnar nerve injury. Fortunately, there was no ligament damage, and rest and rehab has him feeling excited about what is ahead.

Johnson's first MLB strikeout

"Looking forward, I'm very excited. I feel great," Johnson said. "The whole rehab process was tremendous. The Red Sox did an awesome job, and I couldn't have asked for a better team to work with. I'm very excited for next year to see what happens. I think the whole team is. I think everybody's ready."

There is a lot to like about Johnson, from his pace to his power stuff to his poise. The most unfortunate thing about last year's injury is that Boston badly needed starters in September, and Johnson likely would have pitched every fifth day down the stretch.

Instead, Johnson watched several good friends and Minor League teammates produce for the Red Sox.

"Yes, for sure, that was very motivational," Johnson said. "It didn't end the way I would have liked last year, obviously. It's very positive to see all my friends and teammates go up there and have so much success and so much fun.

"Just texting the guys throughout the season and the end of the year and just hearing their stories, it was upsetting I couldn't be there with all those guys I came up through the system with. Every day, I'd be checking up on them, and everybody did so well. It was awesome to see."

Johnson had a strong 2015 for Triple-A Pawtucket, going 9-6 with a 2.53 ERA over 18 starts and 96 innings.

The innings Johnson lost at Triple-A makes it likely he'll stay in the Minors for at least the first couple of months of 2016. But much like last year, he'll get a chance to impress the front office and coaching staff during Spring Training.

The 4 1/3-inning stint Johnson had against the Astros was, well, a tease.

"Obviously I was very grateful to get the opportunity to be up there with such a great group," Johnson said. "A lot of the guys took me under their wing and really helped me out. I had a great time and the start didn't go as well as I would have liked, and then I had a little injury after that. But I learned a lot, like how to prepare for a start, what happens before the game, how to go about the media after the game. It was a very cool and fun experience."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.