Marlins ace Josh Johnson uncertain to pitch again this season

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Josh Johnson has already missed more than two months with shoulder inflammation and Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports that he’s no sure thing to pitch again before 2012.

According to Frisaro the Marlins are hoping that Johnson can begin a throwing program later this week and if that happens he’ll be on track to return at some point in September, even if it means just a couple relief appearances “to give him some peace of mind going into the offseason.”

However, he hasn’t thrown at all since June and if the Marlins ultimately decide Johnson’s recovery hasn’t progressed enough to resume throwing then the 27-year-old right-hander will probably be shut down for the remainder of the season.

In other words, there’s a pretty good chance one of the best pitchers in baseball will end up missing five months with shoulder inflammation that the Marlins initially expected him to return from in mere weeks. Johnson has a history of arm problems and I’m all for playing it safe with young pitchers, but it sure seems like there’s something going on here beyond what’s publicly known.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉