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Marlins taking it slow with JJ

Eddie Altamonte

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Notes: Johnson will be taking it slow

02/17/2007 7:05 PM ET

By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com


JUPITER, Fla. -- Playing it safe, the Marlins are holding back Josh Johnson's throwing schedule until the 23-year-old's sore right arm is fully healthy.

Johnson has not thrown a ball since experiencing discomfort where the biceps and triceps meet above his throwing elbow on Jan. 19.


While some pitchers threw off the mound on Saturday and another group will throw on Sunday, Johnson is not rushing anything. He had an MRI exam on Jan. 31, and the results revealed no structural or ligament damage.


"The ligament is fine," Johnson said. "My arm feels really good right now, but I don't want any setbacks. That's what I don't want to do."


One of the Marlins' top starters, the club's objective is to get Johnson ready for the start of the season.


"We're going to be cautious," general manager Admin Beinfest said. "I don't think there is any reason not to be. He's a major asset to this team, and he's 23 years old. I don't think there is any reason to mess around."


In 2006, Johnson finished fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting. He finished 12-7 with a 3.10 ERA and logged 154 innings.


Johnson opened the season as a reliever and then made 24 starts. In mid-September, he experienced right forearm discomfort and didn't pitch the remainder of the season.


Finding a closer: The closer competition is wide open with camp now under way. The team is confident that the candidate will arise from within.


The team has not ruled out switching Ricky Nolasco from starter to closer. For now, however, the intention is for Nolasco to start.


"We believe that in this camp there is a closer, or closers," Beinfest said. "The only thing I can say at this point is, whoever that person is, he will have ample opportunity to do that job. We're not going to just throw somebody in there the end of March and say, 'Go at it.' Hopefully, we'll do what's right and get him ready to do that job."


One scenario the team is not leaning toward is having a closer by committee.


"I don't necessarily believe that you should have a committee," said Beinfest, who will discuss the topic with manager Fredi Gonzalez and pitching coach Rick Kranitz. "You can have closers, but that day, you have a closer -- rather than just opening it up to whoever can do it that day."


Five in double-digits: In 2006, the Marlins had a quintet of pitchers win 10 or more games for the first time in franchise history. Dontrelle Willis, Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Scott Olsen and Nolasco each posted double-digit wins. Also for the first time in MLB history, four rookies on the same team reached 10 or more wins.


The Marlins almost became the 18th team in the Major Leagues since 1993 to have five starters with double-digit wins.


The glitch was Nolasco went 9-10 in 22 starts, and he was 2-1 in 13 relief appearances. Nolasco finished 11-11.


The only team in 2006 to have five pitchers reach 10 or more wins as starters was the White Sox.


Throughout the league since 1993, 17 times have five starters from the same team posted double-digit victories.


In 2005, three teams did it: The Cardinals, A's and Astros.


Rounding out the list are: The A's (2004), Cardinals (2004), Braves (2003), Mariners (2003), Giants (2002), Mets (2000), Cardinals (2000), Giants (2000), Yankees (1999), Braves (1998), Astros (1998), Yankees (1998) and Phillies (1993).


Boston tickets going fast: Standing-room tickets are all that remains for when the Red Sox face the Marlins in Grapefruit League action on March 6 at Roger Dean Stadium. It's Boston's lone appearance against the Marlins in Jupiter.


Overall, spring ticket sales are progressing nicely for the Marlins.


According to Roger Dean Stadium general manager Rob Rabenecker, Marlins sales are about the same as last year. A difference in the ticket drive is a year ago, when the Marlins were so young and many of the players untested, a big part of the spring ticket drive centered around the Yankees making an appearance in Jupiter.


"We don't have a game like the Yankees this year," Rabenecker said. "Last year we leveraged everything on that Yankee game."


The Red Sox, obviously, remain popular.


Some other games close to being sold out are a 7:05 p.m. ET contest and three games with the defending World Series champion Cardinals (March 4, March 26 and March 28 -- which is Florida's final home Spring Training game).


Spring Training tickets for the Marlins are available at floridamarlins.com.


Roster move: On Saturday morning, right-hander Jimmy Serrano was released after he didn't pass his physical.

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