Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez made his way camp Thursday watching several pitchers toss batting practice for the first time this spring. He saw reliever Tim Wood throw, closer Leo Nunez, Andrew Miller and right-handers Hayden Penn and Rick VandenHurk.
Gonzalez didn't bother to stop and watch All-Star Josh Johnson throw. But if he needs a quick scouting report on his Opening Day starter, he needs to only ask Wes Helms or catcher John Baker. Both were more than impressed with Johnson, who signed a four-year, $39 million extension this offseason.
"It was JJ's first live BP and I can tell you he is at where most normal pitchers are at midseason," Helms said. "He's just one of those guys who has a gift. He's a freak of nature. He's the Hanley [Ramirez] of pitchers. He looked really good today. His ball was moving really good, exploding. His change up did too. He's keeping it down."
Johnson threw only a combined 30 pitches to Helms, Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan and first baseman Logan Morrison, but was able to mix in several changeups, a pitch he began tweaking last year after meeting with Giants starter and friend Matt Cain.
Baker, who caught JJ's session, said the biggest challenge Johnson faces is bring the speed of his changeup down. He said the plan is for Johnson to work on that plenty in spring training. " When you throw 97 miles per hour, you're in a scary spot when it come to the changeup," Baker said. "If you throw it 88, 89, they may hit it and think its a fastball. If he throws his changeup 84-85, I'll be happy."
> STIRRING SPEECH: New first base coach Dave Collins gave such an uplifting speech before the Marlins first full-team workout Wednesday it left Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria raving. So what did Collins say? Apparently enough to give 23-year old right hander Ryan Tucker chills.
"It was a good speech, motivating," said Tucker, who is trying to rebound from a tough season in which had quad tendon surgery and an oblique tear.
"It was basically about just to go out there and give it your best because you don't know how long you opportunity is going to last. For me, after having a pretty long off season (his wife gave birth to twins) just hearing that solidified it for me. You really don't know how long you can be out here for. You have to take advantage of it. [My kids are] why I pretty much changed my attitude around. I'll admit, I really wasn't as dedicated at times as I needed to be. Now, I'm ready to give that effort. You don't know how long your going to be here as a person. How long this game is going to be around. I'm appreciative."
> Gonzalez said Ricky Nolasco will start in the Marlins first exhibition game next Wednesday against the University of Miami.