Red Sox acquire Johnson from Tribe

Red Sox acquire Johnson from Tribe

BOSTON -- With starting pitchers Matt Clement and David Wells both on the disabled list, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein continues to improvise in his quest to fill the void.

The latest was a low-risk maneuver that the Sox hope can bring them substantial reward. Two days after waiver pickup Kyle Snyder notched a victory over the Nationals, Epstein on Wednesday added right-handed sinkerballer Jason Johnson from the Indians for a player to be named or cash. Speaking of cash, the Indians are also shipping the bulk of the balance of Johnson's $4 million salary for '06 to the Red Sox.

Johnson was designated for assignment by the Indians on Tuesday. He will make his starting debut for the Red Sox on July 1 at Florida, which is the next time Boston needs a fifth starter. However, he was immediately added to the 25-man roster, with Snyder getting optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

A veteran of more than seven-plus seasons in the Major Leagues, the 32-year-old Johnson was 3-8 with a 5.96 ERA in 14 starts for the Indians. He is third in the American League with a 2.85 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio, something that could come in handy with Boston's top-notch infield.

"Well, he's a ground ball pitcher, and there have been a lot of balls that have been getting through their infield and we hope that our infield defense, which we think is pretty good, might help him out a little bit," said Epstein. "We're buying low on Jason Johnson. This guy is a Major League starting pitcher and he's had a bad couple of months. Because of that, the acquisition cost was extremely low. Given the market for starting pitching and our need to improve our depth, we think this makes a lot of sense."

The Red Sox expect Johnson to arrive in Boston on Thursday, an off-day for the team, and be in uniform for the weekend series against the Phillies.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona isn't sure how much -- or if -- Johnson will be used in the bullpen leading up to that start against the Marlins.

"Jason's going to start on [July 1]," the skipper said. "Theo and I talked to him today. We'll get him here first, sit down and talk to him. We let him know the day he's starting. How we get to that start, we'll sit down with [pitching coach Al Nipper], me, we'll get it figured out. How best to execute it, what kind of shape is our bullpen in, we'll get that all figured out."

With the iffy status of both Clement and Wells, Johnson has a chance to make an impact on the Red Sox.

"He's always exhibited real good stuff. He can sink with some velocity, he's got a breaking ball," said Francona, who added that the move gives the team another arm in case another starter is injured. "I think Theo did a good job. There's a decent chance this kid is going to come in here and pitch well. I know he's had a little bit of a tough time this year, but that doesn't mean he's going to [struggle here]. I think that there's enough there that it might be fun to work with him a little bit."

Snyder, who was claimed last week from the Royals and went five innings (four hits, three runs) for Monday's win over the Nationals, will start for Pawtucket on Sunday.

"And Theo kind of told him when we talked to him, 'There's a chance you could come back and pitch on [July 1] and there's also a chance you might not,'" Francona said. "He was pretty honest."

The 6-foot-6, 225-pound Johnson is 55-94 with a 4.95 ERA in 229 Major League appearances, 213 of which have been as a starter. Last season, Johnson led the Tigers with 19 quality starts, going 8-13 with a 4.54 ERA.

With both Snyder and Johnson now in the organization, Epstein feels a lot better about the overall pitching depth.

"Six days ago, we were in a situation where, if we had another starting pitcher go down, we're just about out of bodies and we'd have to force prospects into situations that we don't think they're ready for," Epstein said. "Now, we've got Snyder and we've got Johnson, without giving up anything, preserving our farm system. We'll see how it turns out. As Tito said, this guy's got a good arm, he throws a ton of ground balls. With our defense and the change of scenery, we think he might help us."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.