PAWTUCKET, R.I. — While his Pawtucket Red Sox teammates took batting practice at McCoy Stadium on a muggy Tuesday afternoon, Brian Johnson sat in the dugout, looking as calm as he always does, that ever-present slight smile on his face.

Life for Johnson is delightful.

“Can’t complain one bit,” he said.

And that was before Johnson’s performance Wednesday night in Pawtucket – a one-hit effort over 62/3 innings.

Can a call to Boston be on the horizon?

Not yet, but as Boston Manager John Farrell said Thursday, “With each passing start he’s getting closer.”

There’s no question the Red Sox need more reliable pitching. That’s one reason Boston already summoned one Pawtucket starter, Eduardo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez had a 2.98 ERA at the time of his promotion.

Johnson, 24, is 8-4 with a 2.57 ERA. He has 76 strikeouts and 23 walks. He continues to pitch at a good pace and throw strikes. Of his 93 pitches Wednesday, 71 were strikes.

“You know what you’re going to get with Brian,” said Pawtucket pitching coach Bob Kipper, who also worked with Johnson last season as the Portland Sea Dogs’ pitching coach.

Johnson put up impressive numbers in Portland (10-2, 1.75 ERA) and was promoted to Pawtucket for the playoffs.

“Kip explained to me that whatever I did (in Portland) was going to work (in Pawtucket),” Johnson said.

In that playoff game, Johnson gave up two runs (a two-run homer) over six innings.

“That gave me confidence that I would do just fine this year,” Johnson said. “Just keeping it simple is the biggest thing for me.

“When you move up a level, everyone thinks you have to create something and do more. You don’t.”

If last year’s playoffs helped Johnson’s confidence, spring training also did wonders. Although he isn’t on Boston’s 40-man roster, Johnson was invited to major league camp. He not only survived the initial cuts, staying longer than Rodriguez and fellow prospect Henry Owens, but he was awarded a start. He pitched 32/3 innings against the Miami Marlins, allowing one hit, one run and three walks, striking out five.

The unusual number of walks came from Johnson’s nerves. But he settled down. One of his strikeouts was against Giancarlo Stanton.

Johnson’s fastball isn’t blazing (88 to 92 mph) but his delivery can be deceptive, making the fastball seem explosive.

His curve is exceptional and his change-up has become a weapon. He also continues to throw a cut fastball or, as Johnson calls it, “a cutter/slider thingy.”

“Johnson has been interesting,” Pawtucket Manager Kevin Boles said. “He’s always had the fastball/curveball mix – and his fastball command has been improved.

“Plus, there’s the use of the cutter and the change-up – those pitches had been on the back burner.”

Now Johnson may be on the front burner when it comes to options for starting pitching. Neither Justin Masterson nor Joe Kelly have been impressive for Boston. Masterson was scheduled to become a reliever but the Red Sox sent Joe Kelly to Pawtucket on Thursday, moving Masterson back into the rotation.

Boston is not likely to have much patience with Masterson, though, if his ERA remains around 6.37.

The Red Sox know where they can find a replacement.