Johnson logging the innings

After his 7 2/3 innings start against the Brewers on Thursday night, Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson entered Friday as the leader in the National League in innings pitched.

With 82, Johnson holds a slight lead over Chad Billingsley of the Dodgers, who is second with 80.

The workhorse of the Florida staff, Johnson has a way of being economical with his pitches, which enables him to work deeper into games. He has walked just 19, which is a reason he isn’t running up big pitch counts.

“His work habits and his conditioning habits are pretty good,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Another reason Johnson has such good control is his mechanics.

“That’s a pretty good delivery,” Gonzalez said. “That’s a good delivery to follow.”

Johnson has one complete game, on April 12 against the Mets.

The Marlins still are keeping a close eye on their 6-foot-7 ace. He underwent Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in early August of 2007. He returned to the rotation on July 10, 2008.

Because of his previous arm troubles, Gonzalez has a pitch limit of about 120 for Johnson. On Thursday night in beating the Brewers, the right-hander threw 107 pitches, with 70 for strikes.

The most pitches Johnson has thrown in his big league career is 118, and that came in his rookie season. On July 18, 2006 against the Blue Jays, he threw that many over 5 2/3 innings.

Gonzalez won’t push Johnson much more than 120.

“Not only with him. But anybody who has had arm surgery — Tommy John, shoulder and some guys have both — you don’t want to tax them,” Gonzalez said. “You don’t want to get him into a situation where he hurts himself.”

— Joe Frisaro


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