Mets play long ball with Marlins ace Johnson

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Josh Johnson saved his best pitches for opening day, and the New York Mets made him pay for it.

Facing the Florida Marlins' first opponent of the season, Johnson gave up homers to Jason Bay, David Wright and Chris Carter in 4 2/3 innings of the Mets' 6-3 victory Wednesday.

Johnson will start on Monday at Citi Field when the Marlins face the Mets. On Wednesday he gave up three runs and five hits. Had Johnson not missed his last start because of the flu, he would have played his final tuneup in a minor league game instead.

"I tried to not show everything, but I showed some stuff and tried to work on some other things," Johnson said. "I think not facing me for six months, there would have been a little element of surprise (waiting until opening day), just seeing how my fastball is going. It wasn't great today. It was a little inconsistent at times and I wasn't getting through it enough, but it was good at times.

The Mets received some discouraging news Wednesday, when they learned first baseman Daniel Murphy will miss two to eight weeks with a strained knee.

The first two home runs Johnson gave up were fastballs. Bay hit an away fastball over the right-field fence on a 3-2 count to lead off the bottom of the second inning, and Wright hit a homer off a two-seam fastball up the middle in the fourth.

Carter, who is in the mix for a bench spot, drove a slider over the right-field wall on a 2-1 pitch while pinch-hitting in the fifth inning.

"I kept getting behind hitters, but I told myself, 'Just relax. Let my body work," said Johnson, who added his conditioning and strength were off slightly because the illness kept him from running for about five days.

The Mets didn't mind seeing Johnson so close to the start of the season, especially Bay, who is in his first year with New York and estimated he hasn't faced the right-hander in about three years. His teammates are a little more familiar with the National League East opponent.

"For us seeing Josh five days away definitely doesn't hurt, but come opening day everything is a lot different than it is in spring training," Bay said. "Everyone gets ramped up and all previous things and all bets are off, so it wasn't a huge advantage, but it definitely doesn't hurt."

New York saved its opening day starter by pitching Johan Santana in a minor league game Tuesday, so the Marlins instead faced Nelson Figueroa, who is contending for a long relief role. He gave up just three hits and no runs with three strikeouts in three innings.

The only scoring the Marlins managed came against Jenrry Mejia, the 20-year-old bullpen candidate who hasn't played above Double-A, in the seventh inning. Mejia allowed three runs on two hits and a walk in the inning, but two errors made them unearned.

Game notes
Mets manager Jerry Manuel confirmed some changes in the starting rotation Wednesday. Jonathon Niese will move up from the fifth spot to pitching third in the order, following ace Johan Santana and John Maine. Mike Pelfrey will go fourth and Oliver Perez fifth. ... Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said outfielder Cody Ross, who has been out with a right calf injury since March 23, could play in a game soon but the team will consider putting him on the 15-day disabled list to start the season, retroactive to March 26. He would miss four games but be available April 10.