Johnson took advantage of his time off with injuries to work on his changeup in 2015, the Cubs' official site reports. "I was able to throw it for strikes, and that was huge," he said of the pitch. "Just having the confidence in that pitch made it that much better." The Cubs have been trying to get Johnson to develop a third pitch ever since he was drafted in 2012, and he finally looks like he has one to go with fastball and slider. He's already one of the better pitching prospect in the system, but his rise to the majors has been stalled a bit. Don't be surprised to hear his name a bit more in 2016.
Johnson was added to the Cubs' 40-man roster on Friday, the Daily Herald's Bruce Miles reports. Johnson may be the closest to the big leagues of the Cubs' noteworthy pitching prospects. However, this move was primarily for Rule 5 protection. Look for Johnson to spend most of 2016 at Triple-A, and possibly slot into the big league rotation if there is a need in the second half.
Cubs starting pitcher prospect Pierce Johnson has been assigned to extended spring training while he recovers from a back injury, according to The Chicago Tribune. General manager Jed Hoyer said Johnson tried to pitch through back pain this spring. Johnson missed a few weeks at the outset of the 2014 season due to a hamstring injury. The former top-100 prospect is 16-11 with a 2.68 ERA in 49 career outings (46 starts) in the majors.
The Cubs optioned two players to Triple-A Iowa and assigned another six players to minor league camp on Monday. Infielder Christian Villanueva and catcher Rafael Lopez were optioned to Triple-A. Villanueva was hitless with four strikeouts and an RBI in eight at bats, this spring. Lopez hit .250 with two RBI. The non-roster invitees assigned to the minors were RHP Corey Black (13.50 ERA in 1.1 spring innings), RHP Pierce Johnson (one hit and three walks in four scoreless innings), RHP Armando Rivero (27.00 ERA in a third of an inning), RHP Donn Roach (12.00 ERA in three innings), LHP Hunter Cervenka (0-1, 15.43) and infielder Logan Watkins (no spring at bats).
The Cubs announced Friday they handed out spring invites to 19 non-roster players, which includes some of their top prospects. Among the top prospects invited to spring training are Kris Bryant , Albert Almora, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber. The remaining invites are Mike Baxter, Adron Chambers, Jonathan Herrera, Chris Valaika, Logan Watkins, Taylor Teagarden, Daniel Bard, Corey Black, Francisley Bueno, Anthony Carter, Hunter Cervenka, Jorge De Leon, Pierce Johnson, Armando Rivero and Donn Roach.
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