Young Twins pitcher endures early exit in Colorado

Kris Johnson went four innings Friday in the Twins' series opener against the Colorado Rockies, surrendering five runs on eight hits as he and the Twins fell, 6-2, in Denver.

Jack Dempsey

Kris Johnson’s spot start earlier in the year with Minnesota lasted just 4 1/3 innings.

His second outing in a Twins uniform was even shorter.

Johnson went four innings Friday in the series opener against the Colorado Rockies, surrendering five runs on eight hits as he and the Twins fell, 6-2, in Denver. Among the eight hits Johnson allowed, two cleared the Coors Field fence to chase Johnson from the game.

"They got him early," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "They put some points up real quick. . . . He hung in there, but ultimately you’ve got to get him out of there and start making some moves and try to get back in the game."

The Twins recalled Johnson from Triple-A Rochester on Thursday when Minnesota optioned right-hander Yohan Pino to make room on the roster for Johnson. Minnesota has had to shuffle its starting rotation lately with the injury to right-hander Ricky Nolasco, and that means Johnson gets his chance.

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His previous start with the Twins came back on May 1 in the second game of a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. While his outing that night was brief, Johnson held the Dodgers scoreless despite walking six batters and surrendering four hits in 4 1/3 innings.

Though he didn’t walk a batter Friday, Johnson was hit early and often by Colorado’s lineup. He allowed hits to lead off all four innings he pitched, including a leadoff triple in the bottom of the second inning off the bat of Nolan Arenado that eventually led to the Rockies’ third run of the game.

Johnson was done in by two, two-run homers, one in the first inning and one in the third. Colorado took a 2-0 lead just two batters into the first inning when leadoff batter Charlie Blackmon singled off Johnson and Drew Stubbs followed with a home run to left-center field to put Minnesota in an early hole.

After Arenado scored to put Colorado up 3-0, Johnson went on to give up yet another two-run blast, this time in the third inning. Carlos Gonzalez opened the inning with a base hit, and Troy Tulowitzki hit a drive to the opposite field over the right field fence for a 5-0 Rockies lead.

"He drove the ball the other way. It looked like he was sitting on that pitch out and over the plate and puts it in the seats in right field," Gardenhire said. "That was supposed to be a sinker. The only time it sunk was when it was in the stands."

Johnson had plenty of success in the minors this year, going 8-4 with a 2.75 ERA in 16 starts for Rochester. He was impressive with Triple-A Indianapolis last year, too, in the Pirates’ system, posting a 10-4 record and 2.39 ERA. Yet Johnson is still looking for success at the major-league level. He’s now pitched in a combined 18 2/3 innings in the big leagues over the last two seasons with Pittsburgh and Minnesota and has given up 11 runs on 24 hits.

With Friday’s loss, Johnson fell to 0-3 in his brief major-league career. The loss also means the Twins’ three-game winning streak is snapped.

"We got behind early, and that’s normally a bad formula," Gardenhire said.

FOX Sports North’s Kevin Gorg contributed to this report.

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