No one feels worse about the Marlins' losing streak than injured pitcher Josh Johnson, who remains on the disabled list with inflammation in his throwing shoulder. There is not a projected date for his return. Johnson continues to play catch on flat ground at varying distances but has not thrown off a mound since he last started on May 16. He has already missed four starts and says he continues to feel mild discomfort in the shoulder, though not nearly to the same degree as when he first went on the DL. What pains him the most is watching his teammates lose six straight and nine of their past 11 games.
"I feel like it's probably my fault, not being out there and being on that mound, being that stopper, that guy they look at me for, " Johnson said. "I'll take the blame for it. I need to be out there. I need to be helping."
Asked how he can blame himself for an injury that was unpreventable, Johnson replied: "I should have taken care of it earlier."
Johnson and the Marlins are being ultra-cautious. He said trainers have warned him that if he tries to rush back without being 100 percent, his shoulder problems could not only continue, but worsen.
"With the shoulder, if you say, 'Okay, I'm going to come back a little early,' you get yourself in trouble," he said. "(Trainers said) 'If you try to come back while you're still feeling it, it's going to happen again, maybe not right away, but at some point during the season. It's going to flare back up and bite you.'' I don't want to be stuck in that situation, so we're making sure we're taking care of it properly."
Johnson said there has been improvement, but that he also continues to feel some "movement" in the shoulder muscle, though not like before.
"It's kind of moving around a little bit," Johnson said. "But, at first, it was going all over the place. So we've been doing some strengthening stuff."
HANLEY RAMIREZ UPDATE: The injured shortstop (lower back strain) hit off a tee and played catch on Wednesday. could take batting practice on Thursdsay and could play in a rehab game at Single A Jupiter as early as Friday. There are a lot of "coulds," obviously. When I spoke to Ramirez after he came off the field a moment ago, he winced as he sat down at his locker and said he still felt "stiff, sore" but remained optimistic he'll be ready to return on June 14, the first day he's eligible to come off the DL.
LINEUP SHUFFLE: Manager Edwin Rodriguez made some alterations to the lineup, benching Mike Stanton, dropping Logan Morrison into the fifth spot, and putting Greg Dobbs in the No. 3 hole. He said he wanted to take some pressure off Morrison, who has been slumping (3 for last 20), and give Stanton (6 for last 36) a one-day "break."
"We're not scoring runs, and I'm a big part of the reason we're not scoring runs," Morrison said. "I deserve to be, I guess, demoted. It doesn't matter to me. It's not where I'm batting is the reason I'm not driving in runs, let's put it that way. You can't pop (up on) a 3-0 pitch right down the middle, like I did yesterday, a 3-1 pitch down the middle, you can't get jammed. Whatever it is, you got to figure it out and start winning games. Other than driving in runs, we're playing pretty well. You figure that out, then we'll be all right."
Said Rodriguez: "Stanton, I want to give him a rest. I want to give him a breather. I want him to stay back a little and watch the game."
Stanton made his major league debut on this day a year ago.
"Sometimes he looks like Willie Mays out there, and some days you wonder," Rodriguez said.
BRAD HAND, THE PRIDE OF CHASKA -- Rookie pitcher Brad Hand was the hottest thing going in his hometown of Chaska, MN., (pop: 24,545) on Tuesday when he made his big-league debut for the Marlins. The local hangout, Buffalo Wild Wings, was packed with friends watching the game, and a local television station showed up to film the scene. On top of that, some 20 friends and family members -- including the mayor of Chaska -- made the pilgrimage to South Florida to see Hand's performance in person. Hand produced a gem, holding the Braves to one hit -- an Alex Gonzalez home run -- over six innings in a 1-0 Marlins loss.
GREG DOBBS ON "SLUMPS" -- "No offense is immune to it. I've seen it before. I've seen it in plenty of years past on other teams I've been on. Every offense goes through its fair share of struggles. The good teams, though, they right the ship faster than other teams do. There's no reason why this team can't do that, because we are a good team. Everybody wants to dwell on that word (slump), and they want to keep talking and dwelling on it. I'm not like that. The only slump you're in is the day that passed. You're not in a slump today because nothing's happened yet."
Here are tonight's lineups:
Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan, cf; 2. Omar Infante, 2b; 3. Greg Dobbs, 3b; 4. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 5. Logan Morrison, lf; 6. John Buck, c; 7. Emilio Bonifacio, ss; 8. Scott Cousins, rf; 9. Ricky Nolasco, p.
Braves: 1. Jordan Schafer, cf; 2. Alex Gonzalez, ss; 3. Chipper Jones, 3b; 4. Freddie Freeman, 1b; 6. Dan Uggla, 2b; 7. Eric Hinske, lf; 8. Matt Young, rf; 9. Derek Lowe, p.
Umpires: HP -- Andy Fletcher; 1B -- Mike DiMuro; 2B -- Jim Reynolds; 3B -- Tim Welke.