Growing up in Florida, Brian Johnson was never a big Red Sox fan. Not that it will make playing at Fenway Park any less special.
Drafted 31st overall out of University of Florida this year, the 21-year-old Johnson will take the mound Saturday for Single A Lowell, getting a glimpse of life as a big-league pitcher during the annual Futures at Fenway doubleheader that also features Triple A Pawtucket.
Johnson was last at Fenway for his team physical, less than two months ago.
“A lot of history came back when I was there,” Johnson said. “Just walking in, you could almost feel the history of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and all the big moments that have happened at that field.
“I’m treating it as just another day, though. You get a routine, you stick with your routine, and you don’t change anything for your outing.”
One of the nation’s top two-way players with the Gators, Johnson has started just three games for the Spinners this season, and hasn’t allowed a run in 5⅓ innings. The lefthander, who shifted to pitching full time upon signing with the Sox in June, is no stranger to the large crowds expected at Fenway this weekend, having appeared twice in the College World Series.
Lowell plays Hudson Valley at 1:05 p.m., and Pawtucket will face Buffalo at 4:30. Chris Hernandez, who is 1-2 with a 3.65 ERA since being promoted from Double A Portland, gets the start for Boston’s Triple A affiliate.
“In terms of the opportunity it provides, I think it’s a great case for minor league players to get what it’s like to play in a major league park, where all these guys aspire to be playing for the big league club,” Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett said. “It certainly provides that added experience. It shows those guys the energy that Fenway can have.”
Movin’ on up
On the eve of his call-up to Portland, shortstop Xander Bogaerts thought he was in trouble. Playing with Single A Salem earlier that day, Bogaerts, the No. 2-rated prospect in the Red Sox organization according to Baseball America, performed a headfirst slide — a no-no in the system. So when manager Billy McMillon called Bogaerts into his office, the shortstop feared repercussions.
“It was the right time to tell me,” Bogaerts said. “Billy said, ‘You know, the Red Sox don’t allow you to do that.’ I thought something bad was happening. Then he said, ‘So you can’t be doing those things in Double A.’ ”
In 104 games with Salem, Bogaerts hit .302 with 15 homers and 64 RBIs, and he earned a trip to the 2012 Futures Game as part of All-Star festivities in Kansas City, but he believes the strides he has made defensively represent his biggest improvement. That he has accelerated so quickly through the Sox system after signing with the organization in 2009, however, hasn’t really hit him.
“You think about promotions a few times, because my season was going pretty good as of late,” Bogaerts said. “But that’s all they are. Just thoughts, man. You’ve been working the whole season trying to get a promotion, but not thinking about it.”
With friends already on the Sea Dogs, including catcher Christian Vazquez and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., Bogaerts has adjusted quickly. Albeit with a small sample size, Bogaerts, the third-youngest player in Double A, has flashed promise with the Sea Dogs. In six games, the 19-year-old is hitting .385 with four runs, four RBIs, and two homers.
On Tuesday night against Altoona, he cranked a fourth-inning homer to right-center that traveled more than 400 feet, sailing clear out of Hadlock Field.
“For him, it’s getting reps,” Crockett said. “He’s played less than 200 games here in the States, so it’s a matter of getting the reps, both at-bats and at shortstop, refining his game, continuing to improve his approach, continuing to get more polished fundamentally on the defensive side of things, keeping the game slow as he moves up the levels.”
Jose finds a way
Jose Iglesias is showing marked improvement at the plate for Pawtucket. Though Thursday, the shortstop had 17 hits in 12 games, including five doubles, since returning from the disabled list . . . Chris Carpenter, the compensation for Theo Epstein, has been lights out after joining Pawtucket following his recovery from offseason elbow surgery. He hasn’t allowed a run in his past nine appearances, all one-inning outings . . . Bradley has hit a slide; he was 11 for 60 (.183) in his past 15 games. Bryce Brentz, on the other hand, is surging. He entered Thursday with an 11-game hitting streak to start August with 11 RBIs, and then went 0 for 3 . . . In your weekly Daniel Bard update, the righthander recorded just one out and walked four Tuesday against Scranton. In the seventh inning on Thursday, it happened again: he walked two, hit Brandon Laird in the head, made a throwing error, and — after a fielding error by Iglesias brought in one run — allowed a two-run single that turned a 4-2 lead into a 5-4 loss.