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.

Astros extend winning streak to 11 games

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The Astros rallied late to keep their winning streak alive, extending it to 11 games with a 7-4 victory over the Royals on Sunday afternoon. The club is now 48-25, leading the Mariners by a full game in the AL West.

The Royals took a 4-2 lead after three innings, but Brian McCann knocked in a run with a single in the top of the fourth to cut the deficit to one run. Carlos Correa hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth. The Astros kept their foot on the gas, scoring two more runs on RBI singles from Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez in the top of the eighth and another in the top of the ninth on Correa’s sacrifice fly.

Starter Lance McCullers allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over six innings. Tony Sipp worked a scoreless seventh. Ken Giles did the same in the eighth. Hector Rondon finished off the win in the ninth, working around a one-out walk with a game-ending double play.

After winning all 10 games on their road trip against the Rangers, Athletics, and Royals, the Astros will head home for a nine-game homestand against the Rays, Royals, and Blue Jays. Each club is below .500.