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Johnson sidelined with nerve problem in throwing arm

JUPITER, Fla. -- Florida Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson
finally has a diagnosis for his sore arm -- an irritated ulnar nerve
that will likely force him to miss at least the first two months of
the season.

Josh Johnson Johnson

Johnson was relieved to learn the injury wasn't worse.

"If it was real bad, I'd probably be out for four months," he
said Tuesday. "It's good to know exactly what it is."

Johnson said his arm first hurt while he was lobbing a ball Jan.
19. The location of the pain has since moved and is now above the
elbow.

Tests on Monday revealed the source of the pain after earlier
tests indicated no bone or muscle damage. The nerve is expected to
heal with rest, and the best-case scenario is that Johnson would
begin throwing in a month.

Johnson went 12-7 with a 3.10 ERA as a rookie in 2006. Marlins
officials who feared he might need season-ending surgery welcomed
the diagnosis.

"Good news," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I'm glad for him.
It's better than the alternative."

Johnson missed the final three weeks of last season with a
strained muscle in his forearm. He said he doubts there's a
connection between that injury and his more recent ailment.

"I went through the whole offseason throwing program fine,"
Johnson said.

Candidates to take his spot in the rotation include
right-handers Yusmeiro Petit, Wes Obermueller, Sergio Mitre and
Jose Garcia, and left-hander Chris George.

"It's wide open," Gonzalez said. "Anybody in camp could
conceivably be in that rotation."

Johnson hasn't thrown from a mound since spring training began,
but he'll continue to take part in some camp drills, including
fielding for pitchers.

"Throwing left-handed with the glove -- that's all I do now,"
he said.