Back to full strength, Johnson ready for camp

Back to full strength, Johnson ready for camp

Back to full strength, Johnson ready for camp
MIAMI -- Claiming the National League ERA title was rewarding, but Josh Johnson would have traded the distinction for a chance to have finished last season healthy.

Due to a strained back muscle and a sore right shoulder, the Marlins shut Johnson down after a Sept. 4 start.

The two-time All-Star and ace of the staff finished up with an NL-best 2.30 ERA to go along with an 11-6 record in 28 starts. With better fortune, his win total would have been much higher. Johnson exited seven starts with a lead only to settle for a no-decision. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that was the most of any starter in 2010.

"Everybody talks about the ERA," Johnson said. "But I would rather have thrown 220-plus innings or however more innings I could have thrown. But it worked out the way it did."

By missing the final three weeks of 2010, Johnson finished with 183 2/3 innings and 186 strikeouts.

"Just sitting and watching those last couple of weeks, it wasn't fun," Johnson said. "It was tough to even go to the dugout. That's how mad I was. I didn't want to give a negative vibe on the bench. It was tough.

"I want to be out there with the team and be one of the guys who helps us win, and not just someone who can't do anything about it."

Now fully healthy, Johnson is eager for the start of Spring Training, which begins Feb. 18 at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.

The 6-foot-7 right-hander, who turned 27 on Jan. 31, spent the offseason at his new home in the Las Vegas area.

After spending months training at the Philippi Sports Institute, Johnson arrived in Jupiter last week, where he has been training at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.

Already, he has thrown three bullpen sessions in Jupiter, and he has another one scheduled for Friday. Before leaving for Florida, he tossed off the mound three times at his home in Nevada.

A longtime resident of Oklahoma, Johnson and his family had an eventful past few months. In December, his wife, Heidi, gave birth to their second son, Cruz.

About a week before the birth, Johnson began his throwing program, first long tossing off flat ground before working his way to the mound.

Right now, everything is on pace for him to be Florida's Opening Day starter on April 1 against the Mets at Sun Life Stadium.

While he missed the final three weeks of 2010, Johnson will head into Spring Training workouts with no restrictions.

As part of his recovery in recent months, Johnson specialized his training routine in hopes of preventing another injury setback in 2011. He was recommended to go to the Philippi Sports Institute in Las Vegas.

At the 2010 All-Star Game, Johnson met a friend of Jason Giambi, who also has trained at PSI, which is owned by Mark Philippi, a strongman competitor.

"I did a lot of core stuff," Johnson said. "I thought I did a lot of core stuff before, but after working with this guy, I realized it wasn't enough."

Johnson has refined his diet, and he is doing more distance running. His weight is at 250, and he expects to drop five more pounds by the start of Spring Training.

"I'll probably be at 245, which is down a little from the past," Johnson said.

As a preventive measure, Johnson plans on training his core more and working to keep his back loose for the entire season.

More than his shoulder, his back bothered him most in 2010. He felt discomfort in July and pitched through it in August before he was shut down in September.

"The back pretty much caused the shoulder [issue]," Johnson said. "The shoulder just was sore. I went to a chiropractor. It's fine."

Johnson plans on doing his stretching and strengthening exercises throughout the season, which is a change in his conditioning program.

"Even if it feels good, you have to make sure you are doing the right stretches," Johnson said.

One of the hardest throwers in the game, Johnson says he feels his arm strength is building up.

"You just have to wait until you throw more 'pens," he said. "Right now, my velocity feels pretty good."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.