Blue Jays starter Josh Johnson had his first rough inning of spring training on Saturday but Toronto manager John Gibbons won’t be losing any sleep.
Johnson improved to 5-0 in pre-season play as the Jays defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 10-4 before a crowd of 40,811 at Citizens Bank Park.
The right-hander gave up four runs in the third inning after the Blue Jays had scored four in the top of the inning.
“I’m kind of glad it happened, to be honest,” Gibbons said of Johnson’s struggles in the third. “He has been so good all spring so those things happen. I’m glad he got it out of the way.”
Johnson said that he found his delivery and tempo early in spring training but added that, “I need to get the innings in, the pitch count up, so having rough innings is good.”
The Blue Jays gave him plenty of support on Saturday. Jose Bautista homered and singled, Edwin Encarnacion doubled twice and drove in two runs and pinch-hitter Mike Nickeas had a two-run double in the ninth.
Toronto swept the two games in Philadelphia that ends spring training for both clubs. The teams finished with identical pre-season records of 16-17-1.
Johnson allowed four hits, including a home run to John Mayberry Jr., and walked two while striking out two in four innings as his spring training earned-run increased to 2.70 in 20 innings. He threw 71 pitches, including 42 for strikes.
Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick (1-3) allowed six hits, one walk and five runs in three innings.
Jeremy Jeffress, Esmil Rogers and Sergio Santos each pitched an inning of relief for Toronto, while minor-leaguer Marcus Stroman pitched the final two innings to earn the save.
Johnson took the mound for the bottom of the third with a 5-0 lead but the Phillies cut the deficit to one run by sending eight batters to the plate.
“I was just rushing a little bit,” Johnson said. “Once I calmed myself I made some pretty good pitches and got myself out of it. That’s the name of the game is making those adjustments while the game is going on not in between innings but pitch to pitch, hitter to hitter things like that. I hope I got that one out of the way and it won’t happen again.”
Johnson was one of the players obtained in the 12-player trade with the Miami Marlins in November that also brought left-hander Mark Buehrle, shortstop Jose Reyes and infielder-outfielder Emilio Bonifacio.
The Blue Jays have been thrilled with Johnson thus far.
“He’s had a tremendous spring training,” Gibbons said. “I’d seen him pitch a little on TV and some video but he’s better than I ever thought he would be. He has a good arm and he can really locate the ball. He’s more of a pitcher than I thought he was going to be.
“He’s really focused. He doesn’t talk a lot. He’s a lot like (former Blue Jays ace Roy) Halladay. They don’t say much during the day but you know they’re around when they step on that mound.”
The Blue Jays rotation has such depth that Johnson is the No. 4 pitcher.
“Oh yeah and I talked go to those guys when we set the rotation,” Gibbons said “I even asked him does it affect you at all or it does it matter where you’re pitching? He said I don’t care I just want to help the team win and means it. That’s kind of what we’re dealing with and that makes it easier on us.”
Bautista hit his sixth homer of spring training with two out in the first inning, a shot off the left-field pole 329 feet away on the first pitch to him before the teams exploded in the third.
Henry Blanco started the Blue Jays’ bat-around inning with a single to centre. After Bonifacio popped out to shortstop, Reyes doubled and scored on Melky Cabrera’s single. Bautista walked and Encarnacion doubled in two runs. Adam Lind singled to right off the glove of second baseman Chase Utley but Colby Rasmus and Maicer Izturis struck out to end the inning.
It was a long wait between innings for Johnson.
“It’s something I can get used to,” he said. “I’m not quite to used to that but I like it. It’s fun to watch.”
Johnson, who allowed two runs in his previous 16 innings at spring training and entered the game with a 1.13 ERA, gave back four runs in the bottom of the third.
Mayberry led off with his second homer of spring training. The Phillies loaded the bases on a walk to Eric Kratz and singles by Ben Revere and Jimmy Rollins. Utley hit a sacrifice fly and after Ryan Howard flied out to the warning track in left, Michael Young doubled home two runs.
Bautista led off the fifth against John Lannan with a single, took third on Encarnacion’s double and scored on Rasmus’ grounder to second.
The Blue Jays tacked on a run in the eighth against Antonio Bastardo when Bonifacio hit a sacrifice fly after loading the bases on a single by Lind, a double by Rasmus and a walk to Blanco.
The Blue Jays added three runs in the ninth against Zach Miner, two on a pinch-hit double by Nickeas and another on a single by Adam Loewen of Surrey, B.C.
Notes: Lind played first base Saturday and Encarnacion was designated hitter. ... Jays closer Casey Janssen and reliever Darren Oliver did not accompany the team to Philadelphia and stayed behind in Dunedin, Fla., to pitch against minor-leaguers. They will rejoin the team for Monday’s workout at Rogers Centre. ... R.A. Dickey will start for the Blue Jays on Tuesday against Cleveland Indians’ right-hander Justin Masterson in the regular-season opener at Rogers Centre. ... Johnson will make his first start of the season Friday in the opener of a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox.
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