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White Sox AAA pitcher of the month: SP Erik Johnson

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Erik Johnson. Does that name sound familiar to you?

He was the Chicago White Sox top pitching prospect in 2013 going 12-3 with a 1.96 ERA between Birmingham (AA) and Charlotte (AAA). That success carried over in the big leagues as he went 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA in five starts as a September call-up.

Based on that success, Johnson started the season in the majors the following year but was a complete disaster. In five starts, the big right-hander pitched just 23.1 innings with a 6.46 ERA and 18 walks and was optioned back to Charlotte.

But his struggles didn’t stop there.

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While at Charlotte for the remainder of the year, Johnson went 5-7 with a 6.73 ERA and alarming hit and walk rates in 105.2 innings. His 2014 performance made it an absolute guarantee that he would return to Charlotte in 2015.

So here we are, through the month of April and Johnson appears to be back on track. In 17.2 innings he is 3-1 with a 2.04 ERA 19 strikeouts, all team highs for Charlotte. He also has a 1.08 WHIP and have held opponents to just a .200 batting average.

His efforts are a large reason why the Charlotte Knights are leading the International League South with a 12-7 record.

Unfortunately for Johnson, there are still pitchers in his way in terms of a potential big league call up this season. Carlos Rodon and Scott Carroll are already up with the big league club and Brad Penny was brought in specifically to be back-up rotation option.

His performance thus far is still a great sign in terms of his future in the organization. Another strong complete season in the minors would have to put him back in the conversation for rotation options for 2016 and beyond.

Honorable Mention

Apr 24, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Maikel Cleto (39) pitches against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox bullpen was a big story in Spring Training because there were so many right-handed options to consider. One of those options was Maikel Cleto.

Last season he pitched 29.1 innings before being optioned to the minors and posted strikeout rate of 9.8 per nine innings which was second only to Chris Sale. He also had team worst 7.1 walks per nine innings and a 4.60 ERA.

Those numbers in addition to a subpar spring put Cleto back at Charlotte to start the year and the results so far have been strong.

Cleto has pitched 12.0 relief innings and has yet to allow a run. He has also allowed just four hits, struck out 12 and only has two walks.

When his control is there, Cleto is a strong reliever and that has been the case this year. So far he has been the team’s most effective reliever on Charlotte.

Next: White Sox AA Pitcher of the Month: SP Tyler Danish

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