The situation regarding the fifth spot in the White Sox rotation is still fluid after Erik Johnson made his first start on Thursday night.
When he announced Tuesday that John Danks would be designated for assignment, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said little is certain about the final spot in the rotation after the club parted with its struggling veteran pitcher.
The team’s next move is to be determined as the White Sox optioned Johnson back to Triple-A Charlotte after a 7-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox in front of 20, 126 at U.S. Cellular Field. Johnson retired seven of his last eight he faced, but not before he allowed four earned runs with eight hits and three walks in five innings.
“I felt like I found my rhythm there,” Johnson said. “I definitely -- I know I have more to offer for this team and I know I expect more out of myself.”
Not much looked easy for Johnson, who officially was promoted from Triple-A Charlotte earlier in the day.
After he struck out leadoff man Mookie Betts in the first, Dustin Pedroia homered on the first pitch he saw from Johnson. It would be a sign of things to come for Johnson, the 2015 International League pitcher of the year.
Johnson put two more men on in the first, including a walk to Hanley Ramirez, one of 16 combined free passes by the clubs. He put at least one runner on in four of the five innings worked and stranded six men in his first three frames alone as Boston built an early 4-1 lead.
The Red Sox forced Johnson to throw 81 pitches through three innings.
He pitched well in the fourth and fifth innings, which allowed the White Sox to rally. But the 108 pitches needed to complete those innings knocked him out early.
“It was a tough one to navigate through,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Erik finally got his footing and got through it. But you’re looking at a high pitch count, he’s up over 100. It can be better.”
Hahn and the White Sox quickly moved on from Danks because they don’t want to see their chances of contending this season done in by a weak link in the rotation. Hahn said Tuesday he has several other options at Triple-A if Johnson’s first audition lasted one start.
The White Sox could again turn to Miguel Gonzalez, whom they signed early last month and has already made one start. He allowed five runs in Toronto on April 25 in a contest the White Sox eventually rallied to win.
The right-hander, who won 30 games for the Baltimore Orioles from 2012-14, last pitched on Wednesday night for Charlotte. He allowed two runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and has a 2.65 ERA in 17 innings for the Knights. Gonzalez has 18 strikeouts and only four walks.
The club could also call upon Jacob Turner, who has a 3.04 ERA in five starts at Charlotte. But Turner has struggled in his past two outings, allowing seven earned runs and 12 hits in 9 2/3 innings.
If the White Sox -- whose fifth starters are 0-5 with a 7.44 ERA in 32 2/3 innings -- aren’t satisfied with their internal options, Hahn said they’d consider external ones, too.
The White Sox offense had plenty of chances against Henry Owens and an entourage of Boston relievers to earn the win.
But the big hit avoided them every time.
Jose Abreu grounded into a double play in the first with runners on the corners and no outs, a play which tied the game as Adam Eaton scored from third. Abreu also struck out with two on in the third and and Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie couldn’t come through later in the inning with the bases loaded.
Avisail Garcia’s solo shot in the fourth got the White Sox within 4-2. But Abreu flew out to left with the bases loaded to end the threat.
Hector Sanchez drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth to make it a one-run game. But Lawrie was thrown out at home on Austin Jackson’s one-out fly to shallow right -- a call Robin Ventura contested because he believed Ryan Hanigan improperly blocked home plate. Replay officials disagreed with Ventura and the White Sox trailed by a run.
Red Sox relievers retired 12 of the last 14 men they faced and Boston scored three times off the White Sox bullpen to pull away.
“Obviously, I beat the throw,” Lawrie said. “Yeah, he blocked me.
“I thought I was in there because I got through him. Yep, just one of those things again.
“(They made) pitches when they needed to. But that’s how baseball goes sometimes. So gotta suck it up and move on to tomorrow.”