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Former Braves pinch-hitter Reed Johnson ready to face his old team

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- The Marlins get their first look at the reigning National League East champion Braves today at ESPN's Wide World of Sports.

For veteran outfielder Reed Johnson it's sort of a homecoming. Reed spent the last two seasons with the Braves and tasted the playoffs for the first time in his career last year.

A non-roster invitee at Marlins camp, Johnson, 37, has to overcome some odds to make the Marlins 25-man roster. The team traded Justin Ruggiano for Brian Bogusevic, who is most likely going to win the fourth outfielder spot.

But Johnson has value. While his overall offensive numbers weren't particularly strong in 2013 (.244, 1 HR, 11 RBI in 74 games), Johnson did perform well as a pinch-hitter. He batted .297 with an .801 OPS in 44 pinch-hit at-bats.

Reed admires what the Marlins young outfield looks like and thinks the team is in for a good season.

"Being in the East last year in Atlanta I got to see them quite a bit," Reed said. "To see those guys from the beginning of the year to the end of last year it was like night and day. It's a team you didn't really want to face. With the pitching staff they had and then having a lead late in the seventh inning with Dunn, Qualls and Cishek to close out the game. It made it tough."

READY FOR REPLAY

Baseball's new instant replay system has been used in several Grapefruit and Cactus League games already, but the Marlins have yet to play in a game where replay has been available. They will Thursday, though, when they travel to Lakeland to face the Tigers.

It's the first of five "replay games" for the Marlins. The others: March 16 at Twins, March 20 vs.  Cardinals, March 23 at Tigers, and March 29 at the Yankees.

In Friday's 7-3 win over the Cardinals back in Jupiter, the Marlins had a bit of a controversial play that could have used instant replay help. In the fourth inning, Jeff Mathis hit a ball off the wall near the right field line. Umpires first ruled it foul. But after manager Mike Redmond ran out on the field, the umpires convened and decided to award Mathis a double.

"We've talked about going out there at times if there is a play that's really close, whether it is a replay game or not," Redmond said. "Just to get used to going out there and the mechanics of [challenging]. That just seemed like a perfect time to go out and see what they saw on that play.

"They were going to meet anyway. I think somebody saw it and knew that was the right call, and they got it right. I think the umpires want to get the calls right. If one of them sees it, I don't think they're afraid to overturn it. They want to get them right. And that's good."

> In order to avoid facing the Mets in back-to-back outings, Redmond said Jose Fernandez will skip his next scheduled start Monday and pitch in a simulated game back in Jupiter.

Right-hander Kevin Slowey, who has faced the Mets in both of his spring appearances, will pitch in a B game against the Mets to also avoid facing their regulars again.

Left-hander Brad Hand will start opposite Bartolo Colin in the regularly scheduled game against the Mets at 1 p.m. in Port St. Lucie.

"We can control the situation back there and the number of pitches and get the exact number of pitches we want out of him," Redmond explained of Fernandez, the Marlins' scheduled Opening Day starter. "There's really no reason for him to go and face the Mets again. He'll get plenty of opportunities to do that during the season. And Slowey too. It just worked out that staying with the rotation he's faced the Mets every single time. We can pitch Slowey in a B game. He gets his pitches. We know what he can do."

SATURDAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins (6-2-1): 1. Donovan Solano 2B, 2. Reed Johnson RF, 3. Marcell Ozuna CF, 4. Jeff Baker 1B, 5. Casey McGehee 3B, 6. Ty Wigginton DH, 7. Brian Bogusevic LF, 8. Ed Lucas SS, 9. Rob Brantly C. RHP Jacob Turner

> Braves (2-6): 1. Jason Heyward RF, 2. B.J. Upton CF, 3. Justin Upton LF, 4. Ryan Doumit C, 5. Gerald Laird DH, 6. Ernesto Mejia 1B, 7. Tommy La Stella 2B, 8. Ramiro Pena SS, 9. Philip Gosselin 3B. RHP Freddy Garcia.

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