July 21, 2008
Milwaukee made its big move to take the pot in this year's wild card hand by trading five players to Cleveland for an ace, last year's American League Cy Young winner CC Sabathia. The Marlins believe they have flipped their hole card that says ``Josh Johnson.
''Josh Johnson is a big trade for us,'' Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said Sunday. ``We [improved] from within. For us, that's a CC Sabathia kind of trade.''
Reading that, you probably had the same reaction Johnson did: ``I don't know about that. But it's nice to know they think of me that way, I guess.''
But, here's the thing: The normal performance curve off successful recovery from Tommy John surgery usually doesn't cross matching scoreless innings with a division leader's best pitcher. Especially since it was Johnson's second post-surgery major-league start.
When Johnson pitched beautifully in Sunday's 3-2 Marlins win in his longest appearance since the 2006 season, it was remindful of how good he was (12-7 with a 3.10 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 157 innings). Yet it didn't seem reasonable to see that Josh Johnson so soon again after last August's surgery.
''It's his second start,'' Gonzalez said. ``He's going to get better and better as the year goes on, the more starts he gets under his belt. He got us deep into the ball game, six and two-thirds innings. You can't ask for anything more on his second start after Tommy John surgery.''