Imagine: A right-handed Sox starter who can pitch

White Sox starter Erik Johnson on battling Red Sox starter Jake Peavy.

Look at you, Erik Johnson. 

Look at you cutting down the Boston Red Sox, cutting down the World Series champions, cutting down steroid-tainted hero Big Papi.

Look at you, performing like the best pitching prospect in the White Sox organization.

Finally.

Johnson struck out a career-high nine in 6 2/3 innings Tuesday in the White Sox's 2-1 victory over the Red Sox at frigid U.S. Cellular Field. He walked just two, which can be an inning’s worth for many Sox pitchers, including Johnson himself.

Johnson was matched against former White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, and with just one earned run on three hits, the rookie was better.

This is what the Sox had been waiting for since last September. Johnson stepped into the rotation after Peavy was traded to Boston and posted a 3.25 ERA in five starts.

More impressively, Johnson averaged six innings in his last three starts, featuring a 2.50 ERA.

So, you could understand why the Sox might’ve been getting anxious after he was worse in Kansas City than Colorado when this season opened.

But Tuesday’s outing lowered Johnson’s ERA to 6.35. Lowered it to 6.35, I say. Which tells you how bad he had been.

Maybe this is a fluke in stupidly cold weather. Or maybe it’s OK to exhale.

Because here’s the deal: Not to put too much pressure on the kid, but the kid is the guy -- the right-hander who makes this left-handed-heavy rotation work.

With Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks, the Sox know what they’re getting.

Sale, obviously, gives the Sox a Cy Young candidate every outing.

Quintana will give them six or seven innings and a chance to win.

Danks brings a healthier and, it appears, smarter pitcher to the mound.

Felipe Paulino, meanwhile, brings disaster. He has been painful to watch and soon might not be here, which would be a good thing.

Which leaves Johnson.

He’s 24. He’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds. He has four pitches and good velocity.

Oh, and he’s right-handed. Did I mention that?

And he has the traits and profile to be a reliable major-league starter, more than that if he can cut down on the walks.

For the right-handed-challenged Sox, he has every chance to be relevant.

For the bullpen-challenged Sox, he has every reason to be relevant.

For the early surprise that the Sox are this season -- they’re virtually tied with the Tigers for first place today, for what it’s worth ---Johnson has every demand to be relevant.

CHICAGO

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