Erik Johnson named International League Pitcher of Week

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MINNEAPOLIS – Right-hander Erik Johnson, who started the 2014 season in the White Sox starting rotation but was demoted to AAA Charlotte after only five starts, is pitching more like the prospect the Sox thought he would be when they drafted him in the second round in 2011.Johnson, 25, was named International League Pitcher of the Week Monday after he extended his scoreless inning streak to 25. He was 2-0 with 20 strikeouts over two starts covering 14 innings, and has trimmed his ERA to 3.00 with 88 strikeouts over 78 innings.

“He’s really throwing the ball well,’’ Sox director of player development Nick Capra said. “His fastball velocity is back up [93-95 mph], both of his breaking balls are solid and he’s also throwing a good change.’’

Johnson was 12-3 with a 1.96 ERA between AA and AAA in 2013, earning a September callup in which he pitched to a 3.25 ERA over five starts. After that rough start last April, he labored through 105 innings at Charlotte, dealing with shoulder inflammation and posting a hefty 6.73 ERA. Johnson wouldn’t be the first prospect to not find his way back on a return path to the majors after such a regression.

But Capra said Johnson’s confidence is back.

“His command has been really good,’’ he said.

*Third baseman Matt Davidson, another top prospect who struggled last season, has taken over the International League home run lead with 13 and is fifth in RBI with 41. Davidson also leads the league with 93 strikeouts and is hitting .232 (with a .320 on-base percentage), but power isn’t easy to come by.

The Sox traded closer Addison Reed for Davidson two off-seasons ago in a deal that has looked like a loss for general manager Rick Hahn, but Reed and his 5.92 ERA were demoted to AAA on Monday, so the jury is still out on that one.

This and that

Right-hander Matt Albers (finger surgery) will throw a simulated game tomorrow at Target Field and expects to take a minor league rehab assignment in the next few days.

*Left-hander Dan Jennings (neck) is starting his rehab assignment at Nashville.

*Gordon Beckham’s walk-off home run Sunday made him the first player to have walk-off hits on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in the same season (Elias).

*Chris Sale, who starts the series finale Wednesday afternoon, is on pace for 284 strikeouts, which would surpass Big Ed Walsh’s franchise record of 269 in 1908. Walsh, by the way, pitched 42 complete games and 464 innings that season.

Shaken by Hamilton’s death

Robin Ventura on Darryl Hamilton, a former New York Mets teammate who was killed in a murder-suicide in his Houston home.

“I’m still sick to my stomach about it,’’ Ventura said. “He’s a great person, loved playing with him. I’m sad. It’s tough. You can’t really put into words how you feel because he’s such a great guy. Great, a true pro, you always wanted to be around him.’’

Third base coach Joe McEwing, who also played with Hamilton, called Ventura with the sad news.


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