Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – When the Miami Marlins take the field Wednesday night for opening day against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Fish will send their pitching ace, Josh Johnson to the mound for the first time in almost a year.
Johnson’s last significant regular season pitching was last May. He then began to experience shoulder inflammation and spent the remainder of the 2011 season on the disabled list. Losing Johnson from the rotation crippled the Marlins as they tanked hard in June and July.
Wednesday though, the Marlins hope they see the Josh Johnson who had become a pitching ace since 2008. Johnson, who stands 6’7”, has a 36-13 record since 2008 and sports a 2.70 ERA during the same span.
The last three years, Johnson has become a dominating starting pitcher that has arguably become the best kept secret of the Marlins roster.
Johnson is only 28-years-old and if he can put last year’s shoulder problems behind him, the sky could be the limit for the Marlins rotation.
Johnson has seen his innings pitched decline since throwing 209 in 2009, so he may be limited in the first month or two of the regular season. But make no mistake, he is the ace of this squad and the Marlins will go as far as he can take them in 2012.
If his spring training numbers translate to the regular season, the Marlins should be in good shape. Johnson struck out 24 batters in 22 innings pitched in spring ball and looked like the pitcher everyone saw at the beginning of last season.
Unlike in years past, Johnson doesn’t have to worry about pitching deep into games. The Marlins have a solid setup man and a potentially devastating closer in Heath Bell, who has put up more than 40 saves the last two years.
Projecting Johnson’s numbers is tough due to the many factors that go into a pitcher’s record. But, based on his career numbers, Johnson should win at least 14 games and lose maybe seven and have a sub-3.00 ERA in the coming season.
Johnson and the Marlins get rolling Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. at Marlins Park against the St. Louis Cardinals.