Marlins ace Josh Johnson still hoping to pitch again this year

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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.

Yu Darvish suffers setback during rehab start

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Cubs starter Yu Darvish suffered a setback during Sunday’s rehab start with Low-A South Bend, The Athletic’s Jon Greenberg reports. Darvish threw just 19 pitches in the first inning and felt fine. However, when he took the mound to warm up ahead of the second inning, Darvish “felt something” in his injured right elbow. He exited the game to undergo an MRI.

Darvish’s condition isn’t yet known, but it’s obviously bad news. Darvish signed a six-year, $126 million contract in February and has made just eight starts this season. He owns a 4.95 ERA with 49 strikeouts and 21 walks in 40 innings and hasn’t pitched since May 20.

Darvish said he hopes to return before the end of the regular season to help the team. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is realistic about the situation. He said, “It’s a process. We’ll see how he feels. It’s been a long road back, so there’s no point in rushing it now. We probably have one chance given where we are on the calendar to get this right, so that’s the priority.”

Mike Montgomery has pitched out of the rotation in Darvish’s place but he is also currently on the disabled list. Tyler Chatwood, with a 5.22 ERA and 93 walks in 101 2/3 innings, was booted from the rotation at the end of July after the Cubs acquired Cole Hamels. The Cubs, entering Sunday 20 games over .500 and fewer than five games ahead of the Cardinals and Brewers in the NL Central, need some reliability at the back of the rotation.