Johnson puts horrific injury behind him

Red Sox No. 14 prospect pitches five perfect innings for Drive

Brian Johnson threw 52 pitches over five innings for Greenville on Saturday. (Darrell Snow)

By Robert Emrich / | July 27, 2013 7:34 PM ET

With the annual Futures at Fenway game some 280 miles away, Brian Johnson put the worst moment of his career a million miles behind him on Saturday.

The Red Sox's No. 14 prospect tossed five perfect innings as Class A Greenville edged Lakewood, 4-3, at FirstEnergy Park.

Johnson, who did not figure in the decision, needed only 52 pitches to string together 15 outs. He induced seven ground balls and struck out four.

"I have to give credit to my catcher, Tim Roberson. He called a great game, I don't think i shook him off once," Johnson said. "It's not many times when you have everything working. I worked my fastball in and out and used my off-speed when I needed to."

The 22-year-old left-hander was on the mound at Fenway Park at last year's Futures event for short-season Lowell when he was struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of Hudson Valley's Joey Rickard. Johnson suffered multiple fractures on the left side of his face and missed the remainder of the season.

"I try not to think about it anymore," he said. "I worked a lot this offseason with our mental coach, Bob Tewksbury of the Red Sox. I didn't even realize it was today. I put it behind me. It was tough starting Spring Training a little bit, but the more and more I went out, the less and less it bothered me and I got more comfortable on the mound."

Overall, the University of Florida product is 1-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 11 starts for the Drive. He's fanned 48 batters over 40 innings while holding South Atlantic League foes to a .208 average. Saturday was his second start back from the disabled list after missing six weeks due to shoulder soreness.

"You never want to miss any time [at] any time of the year," Johnson said. "Definitely frustrating because I felt like I was just starting to get into a groove."

Drafted 31st overall last year, Johnson is concentrating solely on pitching for the first time in his career. In college, he spent his "off days" as the Gators' designated hitter and was one of three finalists for the 2012 John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award.

"Besides the injury, I feel like I'm learning a lot," Johnson said. "It's the first season where I'm predominately pitching. I'm starting to get into a groove. At first, it was kind of weird to be in the dugout when I wasn't pitching, but I feel like it's starting to roll for me."

Jacob Dahlstrand (3-4) followed Johnson and tossed a 1-2-3 sixth before giving up two runs on one hit in the seventh. Jeffrey Wendelken earned his 10th save, despite allowing a run on three hits over the final two innings.

Roberson put the Drive ahead with a three-run double in the seventh and Jose Vincio -- Boston's 20th-ranked prospect -- added an RBI single in the ninth.

Art Charles had two hits, including a double, and drove in all three runs for the BlueClaws.

Robert Emrich is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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