Marlins Move Josh Johnson To The 60-Day DL
By Joe Capozzi
PHILADELPHIA — Not long ago, Josh Johnson was one of the best pitchers in baseball and the Marlins were the National League wild-card leaders.
But Johnson hasn’t pitched in a month because of a shoulder injury and the Marlins are reeling through one of the worst stretches in franchise history – 8-19 since their ace got hurt.
The latest loss, 8-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies, came in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday and dropped the Marlins to 1-13 in their past 14 games, the first time since 1999 that Florida had lost 13 games during a 14-game stretch. The 1998 team that finished with 108 losses had the only other two 1-13 stretches in franchise history.
Manager Edwin Rodriguez said he thinks Johnson’s absence has played a psychological role in the team’s skid because Marlins players initially thought the two-time All Star’s absence would be brief.
“First, it was two weeks. Pretty much everybody was like, ‘OK, two weeks. Maybe we can handle that as a team.’ But now it’s getting longer,’ Rodriguez said. “I can see the players feeling that loss. They have to pass that. They have to grow through that.”
Because his recovery has been slower than expected, the Marlins have been reluctant to predict a target date for Johnson’s return. But Rodriguez on Wednesday gave his most optimistic outlook: July 16, the day Johnson is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list.
Johnson was transferred to the 60-day DL late Tuesday to make a roster spot for right-hander Elih Villanueva, who was called up from Class AA New Orleans and allowed eight runs in three innings Wednesday in the first game of the doubleheader.
Villanueva was optioned back to New Orleans after the game and replaced by veteran infielder Jose Lopez, who was called up from New Orleans to start at third base in the second game.
Johnson, who last started a month ago Thursday, still hasn’t thrown off the mound yet. But Rodriguez said the team believes Johnson will be completely healthy a few days before he’s eligible to come off the disabled list on July 16. The Marlins are in Chicago that day for a series against the Cubs.
“He’s going to be ready to go before the 60 days. But why not? Let’s wait the 60 days and make sure he’s 100 percent,” Rodriguez said.
That means Johnson – who posted a league-best 0.88 ERA in six starts in April – will have missed two months of the season. Meanwhile, the rest of the Marlins’ staff hasn’t exactly stepped up in his absence.
In their past three games, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad and Villanueva have combined to allow 24 runs in 11 2/3 innings.
Florida has two starting pitchers with the worst ERAs in the National League – Javier Vazquez (7.09) and Volstad (6.07). The team entered Wednesday with an NL-worst 5.16 ERA for June.
“By the third or fourth inning, when you’re down by seven, eight runs, it’s hard to stay focused in the game,’ Rodriguez said.
“We need consistency on the mound. Other than Anibal Sanchez, we haven’t got that. We need a starter to keep us in the game because we haven’t showed offensively that we’re going to blow (teams) away.’
This isn’t the first injury for Johnson, who will need at least two rehab starts before he’s ready. Last season, he had back and shoulder issues that ended his season a month early. He also underwent reconstructive elbow surgery on Aug. 3, 2007.
“That’s one of the things he needs to work on – try to stay healthy,’ Rodriguez said. “Sometimes it’s out of his control. If you point out anybody in the clubhouse who’s a hard worker and tries to keep himself in good shape, that’s J.J.’