Josh Johnson still hasn’t ruled out pitching again this season despite missing the past three months with a shoulder injury that the Marlins continue to describe as merely inflammation.
General manager Mike Hill told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald that Johnson is “hopeful that he’ll start his throwing program this week” with an eye toward coming off the disabled list for some September appearances.
Before that can happen Johnson would have to avoid setbacks while playing long-toss, throw “at least three” bullpen sessions, complete a simulated game, and then make 2-3 rehab starts in the minors.
Considering he hasn’t pitched in nearly three months and had to shut down his last throwing program because of pain in June the odds are stacked against seeing Johnson again before 2012, but the fact that he hasn’t totally ruled out a 2011 return is the first good news on the Marlins ace in quite a while.
Long-time rotation mainstay Tom Koehler was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans on Monday and reliever Hunter Cervenka was recalled, the Marlins announced.
Koehler, 31, made 131 starts out of the Marlins’ rotation over the last five years, but his 12 this season have not been good, so the club hopes he can figure things out with a stint in the minors. He’s carrying a 7.92 ERA with a 44/29 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. Koehler battled bursitis in his right shoulder in May and June, which may partially explain his struggles.
Cervenka, 27, posted a 4.50 ERA with a 34/21 K/BB ratio in 34 innings of relief with New Orleans. He hasn’t pitched in the majors yet this season, but compiled a 3.53 ERA over 43 1/3 innings in the bigs last year in the Marlins’ bullpen.
At the trade deadline, relief pitching is the name of the game and one of the names clearly available is Pat Neshek. Today Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are among the clubs who are closely scouting the Phillies reliever. Last week Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers and Rays were involved as well.
Neshek is an impending free agent, so he may come cheaper than Justin Wilson or some of the other bullpen arms available right now. The All-Star is 36 and is posting a fantastic season, featuring a 1.12 ERA and 45/5 K/BB ratio over 40.1 innings this season.