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Johnson glad to start camp completely healthy


DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Josh Johnson is taking some pleasure in the fact that he can finally settle into a normal Spring Training routine.

Last year, Johnson's early work was focused on rehabbing from a right shoulder injury the previous season. Johnson had recovered by the time camp rolled around, but was still in definite need of improving his arm strength.

This year, there do not appear to be any health concerns. Johnson says everything with his arm and mechanics are flowing smoothly and now it's just a matter of fine tuning his repertoire before the start of the season.

"This feels a little easier," Johnson said. "Last spring it seemed like everything mechanically was just off, and then once I got to the season it was even worse than that. Even when I was down here early everything came natural.

"Finally felt that natural movement where I could do it and not think about it. Not have to sit there and tell myself to stay back, do this. The checklist is going down, just let it happen now."

Johnson made his second -- and final -- relief appearance of the spring on Saturday afternoon against Philadelphia. He allowed a solo homer to Carlos Ruiz, but besides that, he was perfect through his two innings of work.

The 29-year-old will now transition back into the starting role he's expected to have all year. The only reason he began the spring pitching out of the bullpen was to help R.A. Dickey line up his outings prior to the World Baseball Classic.

The early work so far has been mostly related to fastball command, but along the way, he has experimented with a new sinker to left-handed hitters while also tossing the occasional curveball. One of the next steps will be adding his slider into the mix.

"It'll just come naturally. You keep throwing it in bullpens, flat ground," Johnson said. "I think once you get into that four innings, five innings, six innings, once you get later into games, everything gets a lot sharper. I usually get better later in games."

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