BALTIMORE — Until the All-Star break at least, the Red Sox might have found themselves a fifth starter for their rotation.
Brian Johnson (left elbow inflammation) was activated off the injured list on Friday and is tentatively scheduled to take the ball for Sunday’s series finale against the Orioles. Johnson hasn’t worked in a game for the Red Sox since their opening road trip of the season when he was blasted by the Diamondbacks in a relief appearance and immediately placed on the IL.
“If they need me out of the bullpen, let’s go,” Johnson said. “If they need me to make starts, let’s do it. I’m ready to help any way I can, especially since I’ve been gone for so long.”
Boston has cycled through a host of options in place of Nathan Eovaldi (right elbow), who could resume his throwing program during the road trip. Eovaldi was nearing a rehab start when he was struck by a touch of biceps tendinitis and shut down. Josh Smith, Ryan Weber and Darwinzon Hernandez are among those who have attempted to take the right-hander’s place.
“From now until the All-Star break it’s a regular schedule and we have our guys lined up every five days,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “It’s going to benefit everybody.”
Johnson’s most recent rehab appearance was the best of the six he’s turned in since May 15. He lasted four innings for Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday, scattering four hits and striking out six. Johnson’s previous outing for the PawSox saw him allow just two hits and a lone earned run in three innings.
“The more and more I went out there, the better I felt,” Johnson said. “For me, it was encouraging to see. I felt better and the numbers were better.”
Boston optioned Sam Travis to Pawtucket to make room for Johnson on the roster.
Getting a rest day
Mookie Betts was handed a day off on Friday, sitting at a place where he’s traditionally scorched the ball at the plate.
Betts has treated Camden Yards like his own personal batting cage throughout his career. The right fielder’s 14 career home runs here are the most by any player since the start of the 2014 season. Only David Ortiz has gone deep more often for the Red Sox at this venue, collecting 29 career homers.
“It’ll be good for him,” Cora said. “We got here late. I know he enjoys hitting here, but we talked about it after the game and he’s fine with it.”
Betts has hit in five of his last six games, and his 51 walks entering Friday were second only to Angels outfielder Mike Trout and his 61. That plate discipline should help Betts emerge from a 19-game funk where he’s slashing just .189/.326/.351.
“We feel like he’s getting close,” Cora said. “Yesterday was a good sign — line drive up the middle and one to third base. He’s still dominating the strike zone, but he hasn’t hit a line drive to third base in a while or a line drive up the middle in a while.”
In the fold
The Red Sox formally announced the signings of six players selected in last week’s Major League Baseball Draft.
Right-handed pitcher Ryan Zeferjahn (third round), catcher Jaxx Groshans (fifth), right-handed pitcher Brock Bell (seventh), center fielder Wil Dalton (eighth), infielder Alex Erro (17th) and center fielder Luke Bandy (29th) have all agreed to terms with the club. Bell will report to the Gulf Coast League while his fellow signees will report to Class-A Lowell.
The Spinners will boast a fairly diverse lineup for their opening weekend. The draft class will have a chance to meet first baseman Steve Pearce (lower back strain) and right-hander Hector Velazquez (lower back strain), who were expected to begin rehab assignments with the club on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
On Twitter: @BillKoch25