Around the Grapefruit League

Updated: February 24, 2007, 9:22 PM ET
Associated Press

Florida Marlins: The Marlins are preparing for the likelihood that right-hander Josh Johnson won't be ready when the season starts April 2.

Grapefruit League action starts Wednesday, but Johnson, penciled in as the No. 2 starter, hasn't even thrown off a mound at full speed since September. He's experienced some soreness in his right forearm.

"You guys know the math. If he's not on the hill then he becomes an opening day roster issue," manager Fredi Gonzalez said Saturday. "We're borderline now."

Johnson, who finished 12-7 with a 3.10 ERA in 2006, was supposed to throw on flat ground Saturday. That was canceled when he woke up with pain.

He played catch on Wednesday with no pain but felt discomfort in a throwing session on Thursday. He's expected to try again Sunday.

Among the candidates to take Johnson's spot in the rotation are left-hander Chris George and right-handers Yusmeiro Petit and Jose Garcia.

With Johnson's status doubtful, Gonzalez said right-hander Ricky Nolasco will stay in the rotation and no longer will be considered a candidate for closer.

Elsewhere in the Grapefruit League:

Minnesota Twins: It took Ramon Ortiz a little longer than he first planned to arrive at spring training for the Minnesota Twins.

Problems with his visa left him stranded in his native Dominican Republic and kept him out of the first five days of workouts for pitchers and catchers.

After finally arriving, the right-hander was all smiles as he eyes a spot in the Twins' wide-open rotation.

"I'm ready to go!'' Ortiz exclaimed Saturday with a wide smile.

The Twins are hoping a little work with savvy pitching coach Rick Anderson will help Ortiz regain the promising form he showed early in his career.

After two-time AL Cy Young winner Johan Santana, the rotation is wide open with Carlos Silva, Boof Bonser, Scott Baker, Sidney Ponson and Ortiz all in the mix for the remaining four spots.

Atlanta Braves: The Atlanta Braves would be pleased if Mike Hampton can go five innings by the start of the season.

In another sign of Hampton's deliberate recovery from reconstructive elbow surgery, manager Bobby Cox hinted Saturday that the left-hander won't be thrown right into the spring training rotation.

In fact, it seems unlikely that Hampton will make as many appearances in the Grapefruit League as the other projected starters: John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Chuck James and Kyle Davies.

"If he could get up to five innings by his first start of the [regular] season, that would be a major step forward," Cox said. "I don't know if it's possible."

New York Yankees: Carl Pavano's 13th pitch in batting practice was an unlucky one.

The New York Yankees pitcher was hit on the bottom of his left foot by a liner off the bat of infielder Alberto Gonzalez during his second BP session on Saturday.

Although Pavano is experiencing some foot stiffness, the team doesn't believe the injury is serious. After one warm-up toss, the right-hander threw 27 more pitches to complete his workout.

"It hit him square," said Yankees manager Joe Torre, who was watching from a platform behind the batting cage. "I don't think there is an issue at all."

Third baseman Alex Rodriguez faced Kei Igawa and predicted the Japanese left-hander would have a strong season.

"I was very impressed," Rodriguez said. "Fundamentally sound on the mound. My assessment, I think he could win 15 games if not

Baltimore Orioles: Reliever Jamie Walker returned to camp Saturday after suffering a mild concussion when a line drive hit him in the back of the head during batting practice.

Walker saw the ball coming off the bat of outfielder Nick Markakis and turned away from it Friday. He never lost consciousness.

"I'm fine,'' said Walker, a left-hander who signed a three-year, $12 million contract on Nov. 21. "It knocked some sense in me. But I'm fine. Just sore. That's about it. I'm all right."

Walker was taken to Holy Cross Hospital, and a scan came back negative. The Orioles kept him inactive Saturday and will further evaluate him.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press