The Sox optioned Johnson to Triple-A Charlotte on Monday as one of three roster moves. Pitcher Tyler Danish and infielder Steve Lombardozzi also were assigned to minor league camp.
Johnson's demotion is a sign the club sees Mat Latos as its fifth starter going into the season, although Latos is yet to pitch in a game this spring. As for Johnson, he did nothing to distinguish himself in two starts, allowing nine runs on 10 hits in six innings.
The other rotation candidate, Jacob Turner, has made three Cactus League starts, but he has looked shaky -- allowing nine earned runs on 13 hits over 7.2 innings. He allowed two runs and lasted just two innings in a struggling performance against the Oakland A's on Sunday.
Latos seems to be the leader by default for that rotation spot.
Meanwhile, Carson Fulmer continued to impress Sunday with 3.1 scoreless innings and four strikeouts against the A's. It caught my attention on the Sox broadcast Saturday when pitching coach Don Cooper said Fulmer is further along in his development now than Carlos Rodon was at this same time last year.
Cooper reiterated the point when Scott Merkin of MLB.com asked him if Fulmer could contribute to the 2016 Sox.
"Absolutely. Why not?" Cooper said. "I believe at this point, right now, compared to last year, he's slightly ahead of where [Carlos] Rodon was."
Manager Robin Ventura also praised Fulmer in a story filed by CSNChicago.com's Dan Hayes.
“He’s jumped up there pretty high,” Ventura said. “Coop’s excited about what he’s been doing down here, making some adjustments and really putting himself on the radar for a couple of needs that might arise. He could probably fill both of those. Just an impressive young guy and is very mature and is learning very quickly as he goes along.”
This is a change from what we heard at SoxFest, when Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn tried to tamp down high fan expectations for Fulmer.
The 2015 first-round draft pick is not going to come north with the Sox, but his recent performances and the latest comments from team brass suggest his stay in the minors might not be a long one.