Josh Johnson to begin throwing off a mound next week

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The Marlins have made some splashy additions this winter with Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell, but they likely won’t be contenders if they don’t get bounceback seasons from two their big two stars, Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson.

Ramirez told the Associated Press earlier this month that his surgically-repaired shoulder is 95-percent healed and that he expects to be ready for spring training.

As for Johnson, he was limited to just nine starts last season due right shoulder discomfort and didn’t make another start after May 16. However, during an appearance on 790 AM in Miami earlier today (via Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post), Johnson said that he feels good and will throw off a mound next week for the first time since late-September.

“I’m feeling really good,” Johnson said. “I’ll throw two this next week and then three every week from there on in. Everything is going according to plan.”

Johnson said he will know the exact days of his bullpen sessions after he talks with pitching coach Randy St Claire later this week, but remains confident that he will be ready for the start of spring training and intends to start the Marlins’ season opener on April 4 against the World Series champion Cardinals.

Johnson, who turns 28 later this month, has a 2.98 ERA over his first seven seasons in the majors. He is owed $13.75 million in each of the next two seasons.

Julio Urias to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

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The news has gone from bad to worse for Dodgers’ left-hander Julio Urias, who is scheduled for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder next Tuesday and expected to be sidelined through the middle of the 2018 season. His MRI came back negative on Wednesday, giving the Dodgers some hope that the 20-year-old’s bout of shoulder inflammation wasn’t masking any structural damage, but the pain lingered several days later and prompted further concern from the club. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late May and placed on the disabled list with left shoulder discomfort several weeks into his assignment. At the major league level, he owned a 5.40 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 4.2 SO/9 through 23 1/3 innings, going 0-2 in five starts with Los Angeles. He made a brief rebound in Triple-A, posting three wins and striking out 17 of 67 batters in 17 1/3 innings before landing on the DL.

It’s a tough blow for the southpaw, who had yet to hit his stride in the majors before getting sidelined with shoulder issues. The Dodgers were especially mindful of this outcome for Urias, and had taken preventative measures to protect his arm by establishing a strict innings limit last season. According to club president Andrew Friedman, there’s a small silver lining here: while Urias’ injury will keep him out of work for at least 12 months, he doesn’t appear to have sustained any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff, and could be facing a much more streamlined recovery process as a result. Whether he’ll be able to rebound once he takes the mound again remains to be seen.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.