LOS ANGELES -- Last year as a first-time All-Star, Josh Johnson had a great seat for the game at Busch Stadium. As they often say, "It was an honor just to be nominated." This season, however, with an 8-3 record and an ERA of 1.82, the Marlins' ace is hoping to do a bit more than just watch.

Having pitched the Sunday game before the break last season, Johnson was pretty much told not to expect much.

"The told me right off that if the game goes 15 [innings], that was the only way I was getting into it," Johnson said. "I was going to be the last guy."

This year, Johnson's final start before the break is on Wednesday in Los Angeles, setting himself up perfectly for the Midsummer Classic next Tuesday in Anaheim.

"It's a very cool honor that they can't take away from you," Johnson said. "I'm right on line for the game this time."

Not that he's heard from National League manager Charlie Manuel, or in fact, anyone from the NL.

"Haven't heard from anyone, just got an envelope that says, 'You made the All-Star Game,'" Johnson said.

Of course he has heard from family and friends who would like to join him in Anaheim.

"You get two tickets for free, then you have to pay for the rest, so I'll have to pay for eight," Johnson said.

Even that is an improvement over last year.

"It's not too bad," Johnson said. "I had to pay for 12 or 14 last year."

Fastball helping Nunez turn things around

LOS ANGELES -- After struggling in back-to-back games, surrendering four runs on five hits and a walk and recording only three outs, Marlins closer Leo Nunez has now pitched back-to-back perfect innings, including three strikeouts.

The big difference, according to manager Edwin Rodriguez, is that Nunez is attacking batters more, and while Rodriguez won't take credit for that change, his fingerprints are all over it.

"It was my opinion when I was talking to him to throw more fastballs," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez was quick to point out, however, that it was just a suggestion, not an order.

"He's the one on the mound who has to be comfortable throwing the pitches," said Rodriguez, "so I just suggested it to him."

Nunez has one of the best fastballs in the game, but like many pitchers, sometimes he tends to stray away from what got him success in the first place.

Rodriguez has seen this before, and believes that you should win or lose with your best stuff, especially if that stuff includes a great fastball.

"In my opinion, if you throw a 97- or 98-mph fastball, you should be using that more often," Rodriguez said.

As Rodriguez pointed out, there is an additional benefit of throwing your best pitch more often.

"It makes your secondary pitchers better," the manager said.

Rodriguez not surprised by big league life

LOS ANGELES -- When Minor League players get called up to The Show, one of the first things they comment on is the difference in level of play. Not that there aren't great players in the Minors, but in the Majors, everyone is playing at a higher level.

So what about a Minor League manager moving up to the big leagues? What difference do they see? According to Marlins skipper Edwin Rodriguez, the experience hasn't surprised him too much.

"It's the same game," he said, "but the talent on the field is way better and the margin of error is very small. Pretty much what I was expecting."

If there was one thing that surprised Rodriguez is how professional and dedicated the players are, especially the younger ones.

"The players are on the field at 2:30 for a 7 game," Rodriguez said. "That's what has really impressed me."

More importantly, those players aren't out there because they are being told to, they are there because they want to be.

"The dedication of the young players," Rodriguez said. "That's been the biggest difference."

Worth noting

In 13 career games, Hanley Ramirez has a .434 batting average, the highest batting average at Dodger Stadium for any active player with at least 50 at-bats. In addition, the Marlins shortstop's .492 on-base percentage at Chavez Ravine is also tops among active players.