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.
Remember Manny Banuelos? He was once a top pitching prospect for the Yankees and then, apparently disappeared from the face of the earth. Or at least it felt like it. Now he’s in the news, however, as the Dodgers have signed him to a minor league contract.
OK, Banuelos didn’t disappear. He was traded to the Braves in 2015, had a cup of coffee with them, pitching pretty ineffectively in seven big league games, was released by Atlanta in the middle of 2016 and then latched on with the Angels. This past season he posted a 4.93 ERA over 95 innings while being used mostly as a reliever at Triple-A Salt Lake.
Banuelos pitched in the Future’s Game in 2009 and was a star in the Arizona Fall League in 2010. He was a top-50 prospect heading into 2011 before falling to Tommy John surgery in 2012. With Atlanta he suffered some bone spur problems and then some elbow issues that never resulted in surgery but which never subsided enough for him to fulfill his potential either. He suffered injuries. A lot of pitchers do.
It’s unrealistic to think that Banuelos will fulfill the promise he had six years ago, but he’s worth a minor league deal to see if the 26-year-old can at least be a serviceable reliever.