Injuries hampered Pierce Johnson throughout 2016, limiting his workload to 22 appearances split between the rotation and the bullpen at Triple-A Iowa. Fortunately, he finished the season healthy, despite missing time with arm, lat, and hand ailments. Walks have been a problem for the 25-year-old at times in his development, but the shift to a relief role yielded excellent results as he bolstered his strikeout rate in shorter outings and reduced the impact of his free passes in the process. Johnson has an above-average mid-90s fastball and a very good curveball, with the potential to develop a changeup. If he's able to harness a third pitch, there is reason to believe that he can improve his effectiveness against lefties, who hit .323 against him last season. The Cubs will likely give Johnson an opportunity to earn a roster spot during spring training, and if everything clicks, he has the arsenal necessary to be a good late-inning reliever as soon as 2017.
Johnson was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Friday, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. In an attempt to keep him healthy, Johnson was shifted to the bullpen full-time for the 2017 season after injuries marred his 2016 campaign. He struggled to a 6.14 ERA in 63 Triple-A innings last season, so the Cubs will likely want to see Johnson perform well there before calling him up. If he's able to keep up his 10.7 K/9 and drop his 6.1 BB/9 at Triple-A, he could find himself in the majors sometime in 2017.
Johnson will stay in the bullpen, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. After an injury-plagued 2016 campaign, the Cubs are hoping that a move to the bullpen will keep their pitching prospect healthy while also helping his fastball and breaking pitches to become sharper. Johnson struggled in his first taste of Triple-A last season, but if he can right the ship while maintaining his uptick in strikeouts from last season, he could find his way to Wrigley Field later in the season.
Johnson (hand) will head back to the DL on Thursday with a blister on his pitching hand, Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register reports. Almost two weeks ago Johnson was activated off the disabled list as he recovered from a lat injury that had sidelined him since mid-April. Johnson shouldn't miss too much time with a blister on his right hand, but he likely won't return until July.
Johnson (back) has been activated from the disabled list. Johnson missed about six weeks with the lat injury and has managed just four starts with a 5.17 ERA and 1.71 WHIP thus far in 2016. He was one of the Cubs' top prospects entering the season and was considered a possibility for a midseason call-up, but he needs to show he's healthy before dreams of the next level can be entertained.
Johnson (back) will throw live batting practice tomorrow before going to Arizona to continue his rehab, Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register reports. The timetable for his return to the rotation at Triple-A Iowa is unknown, but it seems likely that he'll be out until at least early June given that the Cubs want to send him to Arizona before he rejoins his teammates in the Pacific Coast League.