Johnson likely to debut Saturday at Coors

Padres' righty, acquired in Shields trade, ready to slot into rotation

Johnson likely to debut Saturday at Coors

SAN DIEGO -- After using the bullpen to cover for James Shields' vacated rotation spot Sunday night, the Padres will likely have right-hander Erik Johnson -- one of two players acquired for Shields from the White Sox -- make his club debut Saturday in Colorado.

"I think the expectation is we'll see Erik Johnson more than likely for the next start," said Padres manager Andy Green. "He had just pitched a few days ago, so we couldn't bring him back to make the start today, so we went ahead and optioned him.

"Since he was already in the Minor Leagues we can recall him to make the start if we wish to on [Saturday]. And I'd say that's a distinct possibility right now."

Johnson last pitched Thursday for Triple-A Charlotte. The 26-year-old right-hander tossed seven innings in that outing while allowing one earned run with five strikeouts and two walks.

While Green said throwing Johnson Saturday was "option No. 1," he did allow that nothing was set in stone, given the amount of time between the starts.

"You never want to declare on Sunday what's going to happen … because baseball changes pretty quickly," he said. "I think we're operating under the expectation if he gets through his bullpen, feels good, moves forward, is where he's supposed to be and everything stays status quo -- there's a really good chance he's the guy."

Johnson has posted a 2.94 ERA in Triple-A this year, but has struggled in his two starts at the Major League level. He allowed four earned runs in five innings against the Red Sox on May 5 and five earned runs through 6 2/3 innings against the Indians on May 23. In those two starts, he surrendered a combined five home runs.

Green said that it was possible that Johnson could throw an inning or two with Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore this week, but an extended bullpen session was more probable.

Quack: 'Triple-A stint a wake-up call'

When Kevin Quackenbush was optioned to Triple-A El Paso on May 24 to make room for Andrew Cashner, the 27-year-old righty spun his demotion into a positive light, hoping to learn from it.

"I definitely think it helped," he said. "It was a little wake-up call for me. I wasn't pitching well up here. I get down there, get back into things, it was good for me."

After making three appearances for the Chihuahuas in Texas, Quackenbush returned to Petco Park and announced his arrival Saturday night by throwing 1 1/3 high-leverage shutout innings against the Rockies -- including an inning where he struck out the side.

"He's a professional in every sense of the word," Green said. "He takes his job very seriously. He's dedicated. So when he got sent down, it wasn't just to go down and bide your time and wait until the phone rings again and [he] gets to go back to the big leagues. … I think he really took it to heart.

"He went down and went to work."

Spangenberg on the mend

Second baseman Cory Spangenberg is still not participating in baseball-related activities as he continues to recover from a left quad strain, which has kept him out since April. Spangenberg is still in the strengthening phase of his rehab, but could begin running on the Padres' anti-gravity treadmill in the near future.

With a righty-heavy lineup, it's clear the Padres miss Spangenberg's left-handed bat. In 14 games before the injury, he was hitting .229/.302/.354. No timetable has been set for a return, but the Padres are hopeful he'll be back sometime in July.

Carlos Collazo is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego. Follow him on Twitter @CarlosACollazo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.