Levine: Pierce Johnson Embraces Transition To Bullpen, Anxiously Awaits Cubs Debut

By Bruce Levine–

CHICAGO (CBS) — A lifelong dream will soon come true for Cubs right-hander Pierce Johnson.

Selected as a sandwich pick late in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft, Johnson joined Chicago’s bullpen before Wednesday evening’s win and is readying for his big league debut. Fulfilling a role as a reliever wasn’t what Johnson expected years back, but he transitioned to the bullpen last summer after he was plagued with some injury woes and control problems.

Johnson was the first pitcher selected by the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer regime in Chicago, and the Cubs did so on the recommendation of late area scout Stan Zielinski.

Johnson is 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA, 1.86 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 14 innings at Triple-A Iowa this season. The Cubs are hoping they can achieve a similar result with him as they did in moving power reliever C.J. Edwards to the bullpen.

“This way I can go out there and still establish the fastball and slider,” Johnson said Thursday about embracing his role as a reliever. “This is a different plan of attack. I don’t need to establish a breaking ball. It is just my best against the hitter’s best. That has really translated to success for me.”

Johnson’s promotion gives manager Joe Maddon eight relievers once again, a setup he prefers. Johnson will have his chance to display his skill set and solidify a spot in the big leagues.

“This is a new year, new role, new me,” Johnson said. “Starting was my first love. I did that throughout college and most of my professional career. For now, this is a role I really enjoy. Hopefully, I will have success with this and really help the team.”

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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