GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Pegged to fill out the back end of the White Sox rotation this season, rookie right-hander Erik Johnson made his spring debut Tuesday, striking out a pair and allowing one earned run on three hits and a walk over a solid three-inning start against the Indians, who won the contest, 5-4.
"Today was just get my work in, use all my pitches, get out of there healthy and feel good about it," Johnson said. "It was the first one, I got it under my belt. I thought I could've done a little bit more with throwing first-pitch strikes and working ahead, but overall it was a good one to start off with."
Billed as the organization's top pitching prospect by MLB.com, Johnson is coming off a whirlwind 2013 campaign in which he dominated at Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte before receiving a September callup to Chicago. There, he made five starts, accumulating a 3.25 ERA and impressing the club enough to pencil him into its 2014 rotation.
"Just competitiveness," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura, when asked what stuck with him the most about Johnson last season. "He's got stuff, but he competes when he goes out there. I think anytime you have that with his kind of stuff, he's going to be a good pitcher."
Johnson got his afternoon started with a crisp first inning, retiring Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis in order. In the second, he struck out Carlos Santana for the first out, but then surrendered a double to Asdrubal Cabrera, followed by an RBI single off the bat of Yan Gomes.
He put two more runners on in the third, but worked out of the jam by inducing a Kipnis groundout and Santana fly out.
"It's tough getting a lineup like that out," Johnson said. "[But] you know, every lineup in the league is good. They're well-prepared and they're good hitters, so no matter who you're facing, you have to bring it."
Like the rest of his rotation mates, Johnson will work to tighten up his stuff in his next outing, making sure he doesn't get too far ahead of himself with an anticipated rookie season on the horizon.
"For me, it's pitch to pitch," he said. "It's taking it pitch by pitch and really focusing in on each start, then building off this one to the next one."
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less