Padres add RHP Pierce Johnson to bullpen mix

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The San Diego Padres signed veteran RHP Pierce Johnson. 

On Monday, it was announced that the Padres signed 28-year-old RHP Pierce Johnson to a two-year, $5 million contract with a team option for a third year.

A 1st-round draft pick by the Chicago Cubs in the 2012 MLB Draft out of Missouri State University. Johnson peaked as Baseball America’s 87th best prospect in all of baseball following a successful first full season in the minors in 2013. The Denver native continued to put up impressive numbers following his promotion to Double-A in 2014, where he spent the next two seasons. Collectively between parts of four years split between all levels from rookie ball to Double-A, Johnson posted a 2.50 ERA over 327 innings pitched along with a 309/135 K/BB ratio.

Upon reaching Triple-A in 2016, Johnson began to struggle and subsequently was transitioned to a bullpen role by 2017. Over his two seasons with the Iowa Cubs, Johnson recorded a ghastly 5.29 ERA across 117.1 innings. In 2017 he saw a very brief taste of big league action in May, appearing in just a single game and pitching one inning where he surrendered two hits, two unearned runs, walked one, and struck out two.

In September of 2017, the San Francisco Giants claimed Johnson off waivers from the Cubs. The right-handed pitcher opened 2018 on the Giants’ major league roster but bounced between San Francisco and Triple-A Sacramento as the season went on. He struggled again in 2018, posting an ERA over five with the Giants while putting up a 36/22 K/BB ratio in 43.2 innings.

Johnson has spent the last year pitching out of the bullpen for the Hanshin Tigers of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan.

Things finally seemed to come together for Johnson as he focused on the development of his fastball to pair with his already polished curve. The fastball looks much improved after his brief stint in Japan, and his curve maintained its devastating hook that dives away from right-handed hitters. Johnson’s trip across the world and hard work paid off mightily as he put together a dominant season for the Tigers. Through 58.2 innings, he recorded a 1.38 ERA, 0.801 WHIP, surrendered 0.3 HR/9, and picked up 92 strikeouts while walking just 13 batters.

The Padres went into this offseason looking to make significant improvements to their pitching staff after both the rotation and bullpen struggled at times in 2019. So far, they’ve stayed out of the starting pitching market aside from the Eric LauerZach Davies swap. However, along with Drew Pomeranz, the club has now made a second signing in an attempt to bridge the gap to all-star closer, Kirby Yates, in the ninth inning.

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