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Why Brian Johnson’s first-ever trip to Canada means so much

04.17.17 at 3:44 pm ET
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Brian Johnson (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Brian Johnson (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Bahamas. Japan. Taiwan.

Brian Johnson has been to all of those ports of call. But Canada? Never. Until Monday.

Instead of hopping the plane to Charlotte with the rest of the Pawtucket Red Sox, the 26 year old found himself driving up to Boston in time to catch the Red Sox’ plane to Toronto. Eduardo Rodriguez was on paternity leave, John Farrell needed a starter, and Johnson was the deemed the guy.

“You definitely appreciate the call up more when you don’t know what lies next,” said Johnson, who gets the start against the Blue Jays Tuesday at Rogers Centre. “It took two years but it was a long path in between that but I’m excited to be here.”

To be exact, it will be 637 days — or one year, eight months and 28 days — from the last time Johnson pitched in a major league game. And considering what happened that first time around, when he allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings in Houston before being shut down due to elbow issues, it’s understandable that the Florida native is anxious to put that debut in the rear-view mirror.

Then factor in what Johnson has gone through since that 2015 season. There was the offseason he was car-jacked, which led to a 2016 season that was derailed by anxiety issues. And even this season with the PawSox, he was struck in the head by a line-drive (the second time in his pro career), forcing him from his first start.

“Honestly, I think the only way I think you can shake it off is to take one in the face before that,” he said, referencing the liner he took off the face while pitching for Single-A Lowell. “You take one in the face, one in the head is not too bad. Honestly I’d take that one, any day of the week before I take that first one so it wasn’t bad.”

And now, he will be relied upon to keep the Red Sox’ winning ways going against a Blue Jays team that entered Monday with a major league-worst 2-10 mark. Not hurting matters is the momentum he’s riding via his last start, a 6 1/3-inning gem which resulted in just one run allowed.

And the fact that he gets to get another stamp on his passport is just an added bonus.

“I’ve been throwing more off my fastball,” Johnson said. “I think last year I got into the habit of more maybe trying to throw it for a strike and kind of babying. Now I’m really just throwing it as hard as I can like my fastball and it’s worked out well so far.”

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