Padres starter Josh Johnson has been a Major League regular for eight seasons, but has been able to cross the 100-inning threshold just four times. The right-hander has famously had trouble staying healthy and it was the case last year after coming to the Blue Jays in a mega-trade with the Marlins. He made only 16 starts and posted a 6.20 ERA, suffering from inflammation in his right triceps, a blister on his throwing hand, tendinitis in his left knee, and a forearm strain.
Johnson underwent surgery in October to remove bone spurs in his right elbow. Lately, he has been working out near his home in Nevada and has received good reviews from UNLV head coach Tim Chambers which gave him a boost of confidence as he prepares to head into spring training with the Padres. Via MLB.com’s Corey Brock:
“He walked up to me and said, ‘I can see a difference in just you playing catch’ at the 75 feet or what it was at the time,” Johnson said. “That was huge. I’ve felt good but then to have someone else say I can see a difference, can see the extension … that was nice.”
Johnson also talked about how the elbow injury snuck up on him:
“Spring Training [in 2013], [the elbow] felt good, but there was something in there that wasn’t bothering me yet,” Johnson said. “We got to April and it started creeping in. You could tell that something wasn’t quite there. I couldn’t get to that extension.”
The Padres signed Johnson to a one-year, $8 million deal, hoping to get out of him what the Blue Jays could not — a full healthy and productive season. His fastball averaged 95 MPH as recently as 2010, but it fell below 93 MPH over the past two seasons. Additionally, he’s induced fewer ground balls and become more homer-prone, but a move to the spacious confines of Petco Park should help in that regard.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.