Here’s the good news for the Toronto Blue Jays: Josh Johnson is on his way back.
The right-hander has been on the DL since April 21 with an unspecified injury to his triceps, and though the ailment was never deemed to be particularly serious (ie. no structural damage), the nagging issue has already cost the former Miami Marlins ace just about a month of time away from pitching.
Still, he’ll be taking a big step on his road back to the bigs in short order:
#BlueJays starter Josh Johnson to make rehab outing Monday for single-A Dunedin. First of two or three games he needs before return
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) May 18, 2013
Now, for the not-so-great news: despite the right-hander finally able to make rehab starts, the longer-than-anticipated inactivity from the mound means that it’s going to be a long process, with Johnson being limited to three innings (according to Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com) in his first outing, and the workload bumped up in each subsequent start.
In total, the process may take three more weeks, taking him to the middle of June before he might be ready to join the rotation … and that’s if there are no setbacks along the way, which is anything but a sure thing, considering who we’re talking about here.
Then there’s also the biggest question facing the Blue Jays and Johnson: how effective will he be when he returns?
It almost seems like an afterthought now, considering how much the team is rolling with Ramon Ortiz and Chad Jenkins as emergency starters, but Johnson was simply not very good when he was healthy enough to take the mound. In fact, with a 6.86/1.88 ERA/WHIP through 19.2 innings, the 29-year-old was a mess in all but one of this four outings — a seven-inning, four-hit, two-run gem in which he struck out eight.
Will that Johnson show up upon his return? Or will it be the one who couldn’t make it past the second inning just one start prior?
Given that his performance may have been both affected by the injury and an adjustment period to the American League, it’s difficult to be overly confident that the hurler will simply get right back into the swing of things.
Still, there’s no time for cautious optimism when it comes to the Blue Jays these days. With the team still floundering in last place in the AL East and a rotation that is still warming up to expected levels, time is not on Johnson’s side, and the team is going to need his return to be an immediate, tangible boost to the results before another summer is spent wondering just what went wrong.