Josh Johnson is back in Dunedin, but this time scouts aren't impressed

Scouts passing through Dunedin, Fla., this spring raved about Josh Johnson.

Some of us listened too closely (feel free to make fun of my American League Cy Young pick, and my AL East pick).

What happened to that pitcher? The Blue Jays never saw him in four starts to begin the season. Then Johnson went on the disabled list after complaining of a sore triceps.

Now Johnson is back in Dunedin, and some of those same scouts are watching ... and asking again, "What happened?"

Johnson pitched three innings Monday night in a minor-league rehab start, his first game action since an April 21 start for the Blue Jays. The numbers -- three innings, one run, no walks, five strikeouts -- weren't bad.

The scouting reports were worse.

"OK, but nothing great," said one scout who saw Johnson this spring and was in attendance Monday. "He was pitching at 91-92 [mph]. He didn't pitch like he did in the spring. He looked healthy, free and easy, but there were a lot of pitches in the middle of the plate.

"He threw some nasty sliders, but there were others that major-league hitters would hit for home runs. And his fastball didn't have a lot of life.

"In a big-league game, he would have gotten hit hard."

It's just a rehab start. Plenty of big-league pitchers have pitched poorly in minor-league tuneups, and have come back to the big leagues and looked just fine.

But if the Blue Jays are going to get their season turned around, they'll need better than just "OK" from Josh Johnson. And if Johnson is going to make the money he could make on next winter's free-agent market, he's going to need to prove he's a little more dependable.

It's already clear this will be the sixth time in eight big-league seasons that Johnson will fall short of 30 starts, and virtually assured that he won't get to 200 innings (a total he has reached just once in his career).

Compare that to teammate Mark Buehrle, well on his way to a 13th straight season with 30-plus starts and 200-plus innings.

No one picked Buehrle for a Cy Young off his performance this spring. No one should have picked Josh Johnson, either.

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