Johnson in limbo for Opening Day

Johnson's availability for Opening Day in limbo

JUPITER, Fla. -- From the start of Spring Training, the Marlins stated they were taking it easy with Josh Johnson's sore right triceps.

Rather than rush any Grapefruit League starts, the objective has been to get the 6-foot-7 right-hander ready for Opening Day.

Now, that deadline may not be realistic.

Still sore, Johnson was scratched from a basic throwing session on Saturday morning at Roger Dean Stadium. Right now, he doesn't know when he will throw again. He says he is day-to-day.

Johnson felt discomfort in his triceps throwing off flat ground on Jan. 19. He shut down tossing until Wednesday, where he felt fine after about 30 throws. But on Thursday, his arm didn't feel right during a followup session of catch.

Friday was a scheduled day off from throwing, but Saturday he was again slated for a session of tosses at 60 feet. Those plans changed when he arrived at the field not feeling ready.

"Anytime that he doesn't feel good, it's going to be a concern," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Like we always said from the very beginning, we're going to take it easy on him. He didn't feel right, so we shut him down. We're going to take it back to step one and see where we're at."

Gonzalez confirmed that having Johnson ready for when the season opens on April 2 also may be unrealistic.

"You know the math," Gonzalez said, referring to how many days Johnson would need to get ready. "If he's not on the hill, then the Opening Day issue and the Opening Day roster issue is a problem."

Gonzalez says "we're borderline now" on a timetable.

Johnson, who finished 12-7 with a 3.10 ERA in 2006, is one of the club's top starters. Right now, he is more concerned about just getting his arm strong than worry about being ready for Opening Day.

"'We'll see how I feel and how I'm reacting," Johnson said. "It's day-to-day."

The last time Johnson threw full speed off the mound was on Sept. 12, when he experienced right forearm tightness after a five-inning outing against the Mets. Johnson says his forearm feels fine, and the soreness is in the back of his triceps.

As of this point, he plans no further X-rays or MRI exams.

With Johnson ailing, candidates to fill in for his rotation spot are Sergio Mitre, Yusmeiro Petit and Jose Garcia. Non-roster invitees Wes Obermueller and Chris George also could factor into the mix.

Mitre is currently being groomed along slowly as he recovers from a shoulder problem that caused him to miss a majority of 2006.

Anibal Sanchez, who was bothered by shoulder discomfort a few weeks ago, also is taking it slowly, although he's throwing off the mound.

With Johnson's status unclear, the team now has every intention to keep Ricky Nolasco in the rotation instead of switching him to closer.

Kevin Gregg is a favorite to emerge as the closer.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.