It will take time to get JJ to All-Star form

MIAMI – Getting their ace back is a relief. But getting Josh Johnson back to his All-Star form is going to take some time.

The Marlins ace is the first to admit that throwing quality pitches consistently is a work in progress.

Denis Bancroft/Miami Marlins

In his own words, Opening Night on Wednesday was a battle. He’d execute some good pitches, and then a bad one, and the Cardinals made him pay.

The defending World Series champion Cardinals grinded out 10 hits off Johnson, who allowed three runs in Miami’s 4-1 loss in the first regular season game ever at Marlins Park.

The tone was set early when David Freese delivered a two-run single in the first inning on a slider that didn’t break the way Johnson wanted.

Considering Johnson hadn’t pitched since last May 16 due to right shoulder inflammation, it’s understandable that he isn’t completely sharp yet.

The good news is he is completely healthy. The shoulder feels strong. What is still lagging is crispness.

“Yeah, definitely,” Johnson said. “Like I’ve been saying, the consistency is not there yet. It’s close. I see it in spurts, and it goes away.”

The 10 hits allowed matched a career high for Johnson, who also surrendered that many in 2010 against the Reds.

It’s common for players, especially pitchers, to need some time to return to the top of their game after missing extended periods of time.

As long as Johnson stays healthy, the quality of his pitches should improve the more that he throws. He felt he was just about there after striking out nine against the Nationals in his final Spring Training outing.

“I was real excited after my last Spring Training start,” he said. “It was there for three or four innings. Usually you can build off that, and go four, five, then six, seven and then the whole game.”

Due to the pregame festivities, the first pitch on Wednesday was moved from 7:05 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Johnson said he was aware of that, but there was still some uncertainty over when he would take the mound.

“Chaos,” Johnson called the commotion before the game. “It seemed like the whole time we didn’t know what was going on in the bullpen. It seemed like we were stopping and starting, waiting.” At one point, Johnson had stopped throwing, thinking the game was about to begin. After standing around a few minutes, he resumed throwing.

After the Star Spangled Banner was completed, Johnson said he was able to get settled.

“Once the game started, it calmed down pretty quickly,” the right-hander said.

Johnson’s first pitch of the night was at 7:15. It was a 93 mph fastball that was a called strike to Rafael Furcal.

Catcher John Buck delivered the first pitch ball to Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria to honor the grand opening of Marlins Park.

Joe Frisaro

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