Erik Johnson is getting the first chance to fill an open rotation spot for the Chicago White Sox.
The former highly touted prospect makes his season debut in Thursday night's decisive finale against the visiting Boston Red Sox.
In the aftermath of veteran John Danks' release this week, Chicago (19-9) has to fill the fifth spot in an otherwise stellar starting rotation that features Jose Quintana, Chris Sale and Mat Latos - all with ERA's under 2.00. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said veterans Miguel Gonzalez and Jacob Turner also are in the mix for the spot, and it's expected the team will have a scout on hand to watch former Giant Tim Lincecum throw in Arizona on Friday.
For the moment, Johnson gets the call to impress a club that still has the best record in the AL despite falling 5-2 to Boston (16-11) on Wednesday.
''We feel we have a pretty special thing going on in this clubhouse right now," Hahn said.
Though Chicago still thinks highly of Johnson, he hasn't been able to establish himself on the major league level the past three seasons. The right-hander, 3-1 with a 3.34 ERA in six late-season starts for Chicago in 2015, was 1-1 with a 3.74 ERA in four for Triple-A Charlotte after failing to make the big club out of spring training this year.
One of Johnson's better major league outings came against Boston on April 15, 2014, when he struck out nine while yielding one run over 6 2/3 innings of a 2-1 win.
The Red Sox hope for a better offensive effort than that while trying to win for a ninth time in 11 games. David Ortiz hit a two-run home run and had three RBIs to help Boston overcome a first-inning two-run homer from Jose Abreu on Wednesday.
Ortiz, whose 451 home runs are one behind Carl Yastrzemski for second on Boston's all-time list, is batting .368 with three homers and nine RBIs in his past 10 games.
''You kind of marvel at how consistent and powerful he is,'' manager John Farrell said. "David is in such a good spot right now offensively."
Teammate Xander Bogaerts, who recorded his fifth three-hit game of the season Wednesday, is batting .442 in his last 13 contests.
After lasting 3 1/3 innings of his 2016 debut April 24 at Houston, Henry Owens (0-0, 4.82 ERA) went six Friday against the New York Yankees while allowing two runs in a 4-2 victory. Though the left-hander has surrendered 11 hits and walked seven in those starts, Ferrell sees progress being made.
"Just thinking back to the six innings that Henry gave us, it was a quality start," Farrell said. "He gathered himself and gained a little rhythm as the night went along."
This will be his first appearance against the White Sox, who split the first two of this set despite recording eight hits.
Abreu is batting .440 with five home runs and 15 RBIs during a 13-game hitting streak against the Red Sox. He's hit .438 with 10 RBIs in the last eight after batting .176 in the first 20.
"That's a good sign for us," manager Robin Ventura said. "Jose is starting to swing the bat."