Red Sox

Brian Johnson admits he almost retired one year ago due to anxiety

Brian Johnson admits he almost retired one year ago due to anxiety

Brian Johnson almost called it a career at age 25 -- just one year before he went on to throw a complete game shutout at Fenway Park.

He finished Saturday's 6-0 win over the Mariners with eight strikeouts and five hits allowed. To get on the mound at Fenway, he had to overcome a serious bout with anxiety and depression. Things came to a head roughly a year ago.

"At that point in time, I was ready to hang 'em up," Johnson told Mike Giardi and Rob Bradford on WEEI radio Sunday. "I wasn't happy, wasn't sleeping through the night, woke up in cold sweats. I just wasn't happy."

But when things got most challenging, Johnson asked for help, which made all the difference, he explained. He broke down on the phone with his father, and discussed all of the issues he'd been struggling with. Then he spoke on the phone with Red Sox mental skills coach Laz Gutierrez, who helped him game plan to fight against his anxiety and depression. Baseball was one of Johnson's problems, and he was considering cutting it out of his life.

"Yes, there were thoughts in my head where I was like, 'What else would I do with my life?'" Johnson said. "I don't think it was baseball. I mean, yes, I would be lying if I didn't say it was that. I think it was a lot of things. Where I was at in my life, I was only a baseball player, and people only saw me as a baseball player. I was just letting everything build up. I think it stemmed all from when I hurt my elbow. I didn't have any feeling in my hand."

He began to worry about whether the feeling in his hand would disappear during his starts. He'd knock his funny bone and the feeling would be gone. That was only one manifestation of his anxieties.

"I just felt like there microscope on me 24/7," he said, "and that's kind of what let's your mind play tricks on you.'

He added: "If I didn't say anything, I don't think there's any chance I'd be here playing baseball. And it is taboo. I always thought -- the reason it took me so long was because, if I say something, they're never going to trust me again. 'How is he able to perform if he's having anxiety and depression problems.' . . . And lo and behold, I think I have more trust now that I said something."

Johnson just kept getting back on the field by throwing one inning at a time until he started having fun again. Fast forward to Sunday, Johnson has two starts for the Sox for a 2.57 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP and 14 strikeouts in 14 innings. He has also posted a 2.82 ERA in seven starts and 44.2 innings pitched in the minors.

But some unfortunate news followed his moment of triumph against the Mariners on Saturday. Johnson is heading back down to Pawtucket. The Sox optioned him with David Price rejoining the rotation.

"I would have loved to stay," Johnson said. "But I'm happy to do what they want me to . . . It stinks I'm getting sent down and optioned. But like I told John (Farrell) and like I told Dave (Dombrowski), 'I'm just going to keep working hard. Whenever you guys need me, I'm ready.'

Johnson said he wasn't riding a high of confidence after his excellent outing. He's keeping a level-head, and approaching the game the same way he did before his complete game. But he did admit he had a particularly special moment Saturday. After the game, his dad congratulated Johnson with a hug on the field at Fenway.

Johnson said: "That was the moment I was probably most grateful for everything."

Red Sox flight to Houston diverted due to mechanical issues, per report

Red Sox flight to Houston diverted due to mechanical issues, per report

The Boston Red Sox played at 12:37 p.m. ET on Thursday to get a head start on their weekend trip to Houston.

But travel plans don't always cooperate.

The Red Sox's charter plane bound for Houston from Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Thursday night diverted course and made an unscheduled landing in Detroit.

The diversion was caused by a potential mechanical issue, according to WBZ-TV.

Delta Flight 8884 carrying the Red Sox departed Toronto at 6:18 p.m. ET, a few hours after Boston defeated the Blue Jays 8-2 in their series finale. But the plane deviated from its flight plan and landed at Detroit's Metropolitan Wayne County Airport about two hours later.

According to FlightAware, the Red Sox had a layover of several hours in Detroit and finally continued their trip at 10:47 p.m., arriving in Houston just after midnight local time (1 a.m. ET).

The Sox will spend the morning resting up before beginning a three-game set with the Astros on Friday night.

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Ryan Weber offers Red Sox a reminder that lighting up a radar gun isn't everything

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USA TODAY Sports photo

Ryan Weber offers Red Sox a reminder that lighting up a radar gun isn't everything

The Washington Post's Dave Sheinin this week took a fascinating deep dive into baseball's toxic love affair with velocity, the force at the root of the game's decline as entertainment.

With more pitchers than ever throwing at least 95 mph, hitters are left with two choices: marry launch angle with exit velocity in the hopes of leaving the park, or find a new line of work. Pitchers roll off a similarly homogenous assembly line, with one 6-foot-4 reliever after another throwing gas. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.

Then there's Ryan Weber.

The 28-year-old baby-faced right-hander did not reach the big leagues on the strength of his arm so much as the dexterity of his fingers. He breaks 90 mph with his fastball about as often as most of us do on the highway.

He's a throwback to a time when baseball made room for pitchers who didn't max out the radar gun, and rotations craved variety: the flame-throwing right-hander, followed by the crafty lefty, followed by the innings-eater, followed by the forkball specialist, etc. . .

That would seemingly crowd out someone like Webber, who instead relies on the precise location of his sinker, changeup, and curveball. And it's not like opportunities have been plentiful for the former Brave, Mariner, and Ray. Since being drafted in the 22nd round of the 2009 draft by Atlanta, Weber has appeared in only 28 games.

He opened this season as Triple-A depth, and the Red Sox summoned him after injuries to Nathan Eovaldi and David Price thinned the rotation's ranks.

Following three solid relief outings, Weber received the call to start on Thursday against the Blue Jays, where his peculiar set of skills were on full display. Weber reached 90 mph exactly once in 93 pitches. He mostly lived at 86-88 mph with a ton of movement as he worked the corners, stayed out of the middle of the plate, and kept the ball down.

In an age where even accomplished sinkerballers like Rick Porcello feel no choice but to live up in the strike zone, Weber did things his way on Thursday with smashing success. One night after the Red Sox burned through six pitchers in a 13-inning marathon win over the Jays, Weber delivered six innings of one-run ball, limiting the Jays to three hits and striking out four in an 8-2 victory.

"It's different," manager Alex Cora told reporters in Toronto. "It's not that vertical attack, fastballs up, breaking balls down. It's more about pitching east-west and changing speeds. It's like a little bit of old school."

Weber earned his first victory as a starter after spending parts of the last four seasons with the Braves, Mariners, and Rays. If there's one common element to each pitch in his repertoire, it's that nothing is straight. Weber can generate movement to either side of the plate, and he does not let his lack of velocity keep him from throwing front-door two-seamers that start inside to left-handers hitters before zipping back over the corner.

"Just giving the team a chance to win and saving the bullpen was really my main goal," Weber told reporters. "And doing that, I'm excited and proud of what I did."

"Everything felt good," Weber added. "Arm felt great. First win as a starter feels nice."

With Eovaldi making progress in his return from elbow surgery and Price already back in the rotation, the Red Sox hope not to need a rotating fifth starter for much longer. If nothing else, Weber reminded the organization that there's more than one way to be successful, should the need arise again.

"Amazing," Cora said. "He did a good job changing speeds, moving the ball around the strike zone, changing eye level. He can pitch."

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