No starter has ever come back from a third elbow ligament replacement surgery to start in the Majors, but Padres manager Pat Murphy said before Wednesday night's finale of a three-game series against the D-backs at Chase Field that Johnson will give it another try.
"I think it's a great example for a lot of people," Murphy said. "A lot of guys would shut it down. A lot of guys would say they've had enough. 'I've had a great career.' To see him persevere and then to be hit with this news and have to go after it, speaks volumes about who he is."
The Padres signed Johnson as a free agent on Nov. 20, 2013, and aside from Spring Training of 2014, he has yet to throw a pitch in the Major Leagues for the club. He underwent Tommy John surgery on April 24 of that season and has been rehabbing since then.
Even so, the Padres re-signed him last offseason with the hope that he'd work his way back. It didn't happen. Johnson had the original Tommy John surgery on Aug. 3, 2007, while pitching for the Marlins.
Johnson did not pitch in the Major Leagues or the Minor Leagues last season while recovering from the injury, and he made just one appearance in the Minors this season. Johnson suited up for Lake Elsinore, San Diego's affiliate in the Class A Advanced California League, and faced just one batter in that outing before hurting the elbow again.
Johnson, who has gone 58-45 with a 3.40 ERA during his big league career, was a National League All-Star in 2009 and '10 for the Marlins. The 31-year-old right-hander was dealt to the Blue Jays in the winter of 2012 as part of a massive trade and made 16 starts for Toronto in '13, posting a 2-8 record and a 6.20 ERA. That year he spent two stints on the disabled list and didn't pitch after Aug. 14 of that season because of a flexor strain in his right forearm.
Johnson has been working his way back ever since then.
"Talk about never quitting, that's pretty special," Murphy said. "I can't wait for the day he does toe the rubber again, and I think it will happen."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.