Heath Bell isn’t the only big name pitcher struggling for the Marlins.
Josh Johnson missed the final four months of last season with a shoulder injury and has looked nothing like his old self early on this year, leading manager Ozzie Guillen to worry that the Marlins ace is still hurting.
Last night Johnson failed to make it out of the third inning against the Padres, allowing six runs while recording just one strikeout in the shortest start of his career. Before the injury last season Johnson was nearly unhittable with a 1.64 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 60 innings, but he now has a 6.61 ERA through six starts along with a career-low 7.4 strikeouts per nine frames.
Asked about Johnson’s status, Guillen told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald:
I just wonder if he’s not feeling good. He says he feels good, but his stuff is not there. A lot of bad pitches. I think right now what is killing him is he does not have any command with his pitches.
Johnson brushed aside thoughts of an injury, saying simply that “when you throw the ball over the middle of the plate, you’re going to get hit.” However, in looking at his radar gun readings it’s easy to see a decline in raw stuff. Johnson has averaged 92.6 miles per hour with his fastball this year, which is well above-average velocity … and a significant dropoff from his average of 94.9 mph in 2010 and 93.8 mph in 2011.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.