Should all the pressure be on JJ?

Many baseball insiders are speculating if Josh Johnson makes at least 30 starts, the Marlins will reach the postseason.

It’s a lot of pressure to place on the shoulders of the Miami ace, who right now is striving to keep his right shoulder healthy all season.

In 2011, Johnson was limited to nine starts and 60 1/3 innings after he experienced shoulder inflammation in May.

Johnson has shown he is getting back to full strength in his first two Grapefruit League starts. His velocity is at 95 mph (great sign), but his command still needs some work. That’s no big deal, because Spring Training is the time to get back in shape and polished up for the season. That’s for all pitchers.

While it’s obvious Miami needs to keep Johnson healthy to seriously contend, is it really that crucial for him to make 30 starts? Would being held back every so often — miss a start here or there, in say, June or July — be that damaging? If JJ makes 20-25 starts, and reaches 170 innings, would that seriously damage the Marlins’ playoff chances?

In 2003, Josh Beckett had three disabled list stints, and he came back rested and strong in August, September, and certainly October.

Perhaps if Johnson is paced right, he will be in a similar situation, to be strong heading into September, rather than be wearing down for a dramatic rise in innings.

The Nationals, after all, are limiting Stephen Strasburg to roughly 160 innings.

Would it be wise for Miami to push JJ from 60 1/3 innings to 200?

Johnson clearly doesn’t want any restrictions.

“Hopefully, it never really comes to that, and I can learn a lot of stuff about myself and what works best for me in the long run,” Johnson said.

Players naturally will want to push themselves. Organizations have to guard players from themselves, and not overreaching their limitations.

Manager Ozzie Guillen says how Johnson feels on a start to start basis will ultimately tell the story.

“He will dictate to us how much he’s going to pitch,” Guillen said. “There is no reason if we’re up by eight runs in the seventh inning that he continues to pitch. It all depends on how he feels and how he is throwing the ball.”

While so many are putting the pressure on Johnson to be out there for a full season, Guillen says there are plenty of quality arms on the team to do their part. Mark Buehrle, who has reached the 200 inning plateau 11 straight years, was previously the ace of the White Sox. Carlos Zambrano, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez also are quality right-handers.

“What’s an ace mean? The ace is my Opening Day pitcher,” Guillen said. “The next night, it’s Buehrle. To me, Johnson’s the best one we have, yes. He’s the glue of the pitching staff. But we have to be realistic. God forbid, if something happens to him, we’re not going to sit down here and feel sorry for ourself. If something happens to him, somebody has to pick it up.

“That’s why I don’t put it all on this kid. Everybody to me is equal. Ace, to me, is the guy on the mound. Is he our best pitcher, with the best stuff? Yes. But we’ve got pretty good ones behind him too.”

Joe Frisaro

 

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