JJ showing how less can be more

MIAMI — Making every start was and still is Josh Johnson’s goal this season.

Coming back from a right shoulder ailment, many questioned if the Marlins’ ace would be able to hold up for 34 starts, and log 200-plus innings.

Thus far, health has not been an issue. Johnson on Tuesday is making his 24th start. Certainly, there have been some rough outings, and signs of rust. But since the All-Star Break, JJ has pretty much been effective — 2-3 with a 3.38 ERA, striking out 37 in 37 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting .229 against him in those six starts.

JJ isn’t quite back to his All-Star form from a few years ago, but he’s made great strides since the first half, when he was 5-5 with a 4.06 ERA, striking out 85 in 102 innings. The opposition hit .280 against him in those 17 starts.

The Marlins have not placed any limits on Johnson this season. There are no plans to shut him down after 28 or 30 starts. As long as he’s not feeling any discomfort, he plans on being out there.

Let’s not forget that a year ago, he made just nine starts and threw 60 1/3 innings before being shut down due to right shoulder inflammation.

In hopes of making it healthy through September, JJ has made some adjustments in his preparation.

He’s received some pointers from veterans Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano. Basically, JJ has scaled back how much he throws between starts.

“I’ve been doing that every now and then, holding back a little on the inbetweens, just to kind of figure things out,” Johnson said. “Sometimes, I’ll take a day off here, a day off there. Buehrle has helped me out there, and so has Zambrano.”

A couple of weeks ago, Johnson dramatically reduced his between starts bullpen session, throwing 12-15 pitches, all fastballs.

“[Zambrano] was like, ‘Save your bullets,’ ” JJ said. “I’m just trying to figure it out.”

Joe Frisaro

 

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