The four Blue Jays affiliates split their games last night.
Cobi Johnson was lights out as Vancouver’s closer in his pro debut season last year. One of those guys whose draft stock fell after missing all of 2017 because of Tommy John, and a shutdown for the last three weeks of his draft year, he overmatched hitters in the Northwest League with his power fastball/curve combo.
Fast forward to this spring, and Johnson was struggling to locate his pitches. He did not pitch well in spring training, and his inconsistent work during side sessions when he joined Lansing delayed his Low A debut. To get him straightened out, Manager Dallas McPherson and Pitching Coach Tony Caceres decided to start him in a game against West Michigan, figuring the low pressure environment might help him.
Did it ever.
Johnson needed only 48 pitches to get through five shutout innings, striking out five and allowing only a pair of singles. With speedy Reggie Pruitt on 3rd in the bottom of the 6th as a result of a single and an errant pick off throw, Otto Lopez singled up the middle against a drawn-in infield to give the Lugnuts the only run they would need. In relief of Johnson, the tallest player in the system, Fitz Stadler, got the W in his MWL debut, pitching four scoreless innings. Johnson and Stadler combined on a three hit shutout in a game that took only 1:54 to play.
With a rehabbing Vladimir Guerrero Jr back in the lineup, Dunedin topped Fort Myers, 4-1. Guerrero went 1-4, driving in a run, and came around to score on Cullen Large’s double as part of a two-run 4th. RF Ryan Noda led the D-Jays by going 2-3 with a walk. Turner Larkins tossed five shutout innings to record the win.
On a foggy night that got colder as the night wore on, Pawtucket topped Buffalo, 5-2. Fog even delayed the game for a half an hour between the 2nd and 3rd innings. Prior to the fog delay, starter David Paulino had retired the first six hitters he faced, and a pair of runs in the bottom half of the second had the Bisons out front. After scoring a run in the top of the 3rd when play resumed, Pawtucket scored a pair in the seventh and eighth innings to seal the victory.
In New Hampshire, the Fisher Cats were shut out 2-0 by Reading. In his Blue Jays debut after coming over in the Russ Martin deal, Andrew Sopko pitched well, allowing only one run on three hits over five, but New Hampshire was unable to get any offence going. Josh Palacios’ 3rd inning double was the only hit they could muster on the night against Reading pitching.