Josh Johnson will rejoin lean Blue Jays' rotation in San Francisco

By Scott Miller | Senior Baseball Columnist

The Blue Jays, who finally are swinging the bats this month but remain in desperate need of pitching, will bring right-hander Josh Johnson back from the disabled list to start Tuesday night's game in San Francisco.

Johnson made his third injury-rehabilitation start for Triple-A Buffalo on Thursday night and was clobbered, but the Jays at this point are more interested in his physical state of being than his line score.

The pitcher told them on Friday that he felt no negative day-after effects, and manager John Gibbons proclaimed him “good to go.”

Of course, Johnson's definition of "good to go" historically has been a little different than that of his club. He's developed a well-earned reputation as one of the most fragile pitchers in the game, and with the Blue Jays sinking and his own impending free agency this winter, Johnson needs to reverse that, and soon.

The Jays rank 14th in the American League and 29th in the majors with a 4.86 ERA. Only the Astros are worse. The Jays' rotation is 13th among AL starting rotations with a 5.53 ERA.

Given that, it's nearly miraculous Gibbons' crew was in line to finish the month of May with a .500 record if the Jays were to beat San Diego on Friday night. The Jays entered their series opener in San Diego 13-14 in May after starting 10-17 in April.

Buried in last place in the AL East at 23-31, 9 1/2 games out, the Jays have scored a major league-high 102 runs since May 11.

“We're swinging it,” Gibbons said. “We're hitting. Our pitching has got to [improve]. It's not going to be easy until we get some of these guys back.

“We need Josh to be good when he comes back. He's got to stabilize things.”

Johnson surrendered six earned runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings for Buffalo on Thursday. For the season with the Jays, he is 0-1 with a 6.86 ERA in four starts.

Meanwhile, the Jays thought they would have rotation depth this season as Ricky Romero figured things out at Buffalo. But the one-time Jays ace is completely lost. He couldn't get out of the first inning in Buffalo on Monday -- Durham pounced for eight runs on five hits and three walks in only two-thirds of an inning.

And there's a good chance the Jays will wind up scratching Brandon Morrow from Sunday's start in San Diego because of the right-hander's sore back.

Add that to the long-term absence of Jose Reyes and the recent disabling of third baseman Brett Lawrie, and the Jays are without the left side of their infield and down two starters (Johnson and J.A. Happ) and possibly a third (Morrow) by Sunday.

“You deal with what your team deals with,” Gibbons said. “Very rarely is your team intact all year.

“Legitimate teams overcome it.”

Toronto's latest run at becoming a legitimate team in 2013 starts with Johnson's return. And the big right-hander has a pretty good financial incentive to stay on the mound and make things work.

“You've got to pitch,” Gibbons said. “We think we've got the offense to do it. You've just got to pitch.”

 
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