Erik Johnson said the White Sox message is simple as he heads back to Triple-A Charlotte after Saturday’s game -- “get back to who you are.”
The White Sox optioned their top-pitching prospect back to the minor leagues only four starts into the 2014 season. Johnson, who is 1-3 with a 6.46 ERA over 23 2/3 innings, has severely struggled with command in four of five outings.
Though he’s gone for now, White Sox manager Robin Ventura doesn’t believe he’s seen the last of Johnson, who entered the season rated the No. 2 prospect in the system by Baseball America.
“He just needs to go and get his stuff back, get that competitive stuff that we’ve seen before,” Ventura said. “He can work on it down there. He’s a good pitcher. He’s young. You don’t expect not to see him for a while. I would expect to see him again pretty soon.”
Johnson’s demotion comes at a time when the White Sox have struggled to get their starting pitchers deep into games.
The right-hander lasted only 1 2/3 innings on Friday night when he allowed four earned runs and four hits and walked four. In his previous outing, Ventura said Johnson pulled a “Harry Houdini act” as he worked around a career-high five walks against the Texas Rangers.
Only twice this season has Johnson, who has walked 15 batters in 23 2/3 innings, pitched beyond the fifth inning. Of the 459 pitches Johnson has thrown, only 255 (55.5 percent) have gone for strikes.
“It’s just something where I have to go down and refine my stuff and get it back to where it was and hopefully come back up and help the team as best as I can,” Johnson said. “No one expects to go down. I think it’s definitely a privilege to be in the big leagues and it’s a privilege to play here and you’ve got to bring it every day. Right now what I’m doing is not what they, or not what gets results out there.”