NEW YORK - Saying he was being "smart for once in my life", Josh Johnson downplayed the seriousness of triceps tightness that forced him out of Friday's scheduled start against the Yankees. The Blue Jays lost 6-4.
"You never want to miss any starts," said Johnson. "How bad the team, how bad we're going right now, that was one of the things but I've had pretty much everybody come up and tell me to be smart to make sure to be smart. We want you here in September and October and right now it's not as important."
Johnson is wise to be careful. Not only is he pitching for a team that despite an ugly 9-15 start has playoff aspirations, he's pitching for his next contract. The six-foot-seven right-hander will be a free agent after the season and with a healthy and productive 2013 could command nine-figure money.
"Like, I've never felt anything in there, in that location so it's something pretty different to me," said Johnson. "If it was in a different part of the elbow I'd be like, all right, I'm going to make this start because a lot of times you throw through that and it goes away. It's almost like pitching through the tightness, sometimes you have to."
The pain doesn't affect the elbow or the shoulder. Johnson has undergone an MRI, the results of which are pending, and he's told the club he would prefer not to be placed on the disabled list but understands if the move is required to free up a spot on the active roster.
"Yes I hope so," said Johnson when asked if he'd only miss Friday's start. "I've been on the other side of this before where it's, hopefully I'll be back in a couple of weeks or whatever and it ends up being five months. Hopefully it won't be that. When I'm walking around, doing everything else I never feel it. Once you just start throwing, right when you release the ball you feel, well it feels like someone's poking you kind of with their finger. It doesn't really hurt but if you end up pulling a muscle back there it can set you back a long time."
Johnson, like his club, has struggled in April. In four starts, he's still looking for his first win as a Blue Jay (0-1) and has an ERA of 6.86.
As R.A. Dickey pitches with a painful strain in his neck, Brandon Morrow works at peak velocity in some starts and others not, and Mark Buehrle completes a disappointing April, the perceived strength of the Blue Jays – the starting rotation – suddenly is full of questions.
- Left-hander Aaron Laffey, 28, struggled in place of Josh Johnson. He pitched 2 2/3 innings on Friday, allowing two runs on two hits and was in trouble in both the second and third innings due to five walks.
Laffey was designated for assignment after the game.
- The Yankees suffered two injuries in Friday night's game.
Starter Ivan Nova left the game in the third inning with pain in his right elbow. He was to undergo an MRI late Friday evening.