Johnson cruised through four innings before running into bad luck in the fifth, and the Charleston RiverDogs beat the Augusta GreenJackets 5-1 on Thursday night in the season opener at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Johnson, who worked exclusively as a reliever at Cal Poly before getting drafted, is being given the opportunity to start in the San Francisco Giants system.
It worked well over 10 starts at short-season Salem Keizer in 2013 and continued through the first outing in Augusta.
“He threw the ball very well,” manager Mike Goff said. “He commanded the strike zone. He was down in the zone. He kept us in the ballgame. I was very pleased with his effort.”
The polished right-hander threw four shutout innings before allowing three runs in the fifth.
Johnson induced nine ground balls and eight swinging strikes, avoiding hard contact with a low-90s fastball, and deceptive curveball and changeup.
Charleston (1-0) broke the scoreless tie in the fifth when three consecutive baserunners eventually led to three runs. The first scored when a throw from the outfield hit a trailing baserunner and bounced away.
The second scored on a wild pitch and the third scored on an RBI double by Abiatal Avelino. Charleston added a fourth run in the sixth on a wild pitch and a fifth in the eighth on an RBI triple by Miguel Andujar.
Augusta (0-1) scored its lone run in the sixth on an error.
RiverDogs starter Rookie Davis threw five scoreless innings on two hits, striking out five.
“We tried to chase him up in the zone a lot,” Goff said. “You can’t chase up in the zone. You can’t make a living with fly balls in this ballpark. It doesn’t carry.”