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06/03/10 1:08 AM EST

Tommy John surgery survivors meet in Miami

It's a big league pitcher's worst nightmare. It starts with some pain in the elbow, develops into a doctor's visit, and eventually leads to the dreaded Tommy John surgery.

But that's just the beginning. For the two pitchers squaring off in Thursday's rubber match between Milwaukee and Florida, it's a story that has ended very differently.

Marlins ace Josh Johnson had Tommy John surgery on Aug. 3, 2007, and made his return to the Majors on July 10, 2008, just 11 months after the procedure. On the other hand, the Brewers' Chris Capuano has gone 979 days since his last big league start on Sept. 28, 2007. His march to the mound will mark the triumphant end of a two-year rehabilitation from his second career Tommy John surgery, which he underwent in May 2008.

As a promising young pitcher, Capuano won 18 games for the Brewers in 2005, with a 3.99 ERA. Before his injury, he started 25 games in 2007, going 5-12 with a 5.10 ERA. Upon returning to baseball action, the 31-year-old southpaw started six games in Class A ball in 2009.

Capuano started three and four games, respectively, for Class A Advanced Brevard County and Triple-A Nashville this season before getting the call back up to the Majors. He threw a season-high 98 pitches in his penultimate start for Nashville on May 23.

"Physically, my body is definitely ready to handle the rigors of starting," he said. "From there, it's a matter of making pitches so you can get into the seventh or eighth inning. My goal is to try to throw strikes, get ahead and give them as much as I can."

Capuano will be Milwaukee's ninth different starter this season, matching its total from all of 2009.

Meanwhile, Johnson has been a model of consistency for the Marlins this year. He is 5-2 through 11 starts, with a 2.19 ERA and a strikeout rate of 8.9 per nine innings. His record could be 6-1 if his previous start hadn't come on the day Roy Halladay decided to pitch the 20th perfect game in baseball history. Johnson opposed Halladay's perfecto with a gem of his own, going seven strong innings and allowing just one unearned run in defeat.

"I mixed in my pitches and I threw my changeup for strikes," Johnson said of his outing against Philadelphia. "That really helps me a lot. The changeup is big for me, so guys can't sit on one pitch. ... It's about getting confidence in it and throwing it. My slider sometimes is 91 or 92 [mph]. Sometimes I can use both [slider and changeup]. If I have a slower one, at 85 or 86, that's when I'm at my best."

Brewers: Lucroy gets start behind the plate
Rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy will call the signals for Capuano. Since his big league debut on May 21, Lucroy has caught just two games, both coming in starts by Randy Wolf. But the young catcher struggled with Wolf's complicated system of signs, and his communication with the veteran pitcher suffered. After the two worked together in a bullpen session this week, Brewers manager Ken Macha decided that George Kottaras will catch Wolf in the future. He nebulously attributed the change to "comfort level." As a hitter, Lucroy has four singles in 10 plate appearances so far this season.

Marlins: Rehabbing players get work in
Catcher John Baker, who has been on the disabled list since May 15 with a flexor arm muscle strain, did some light throwing for the first time since he went on the DL. Baker threw from 60 feet on Wednesday, and he caught a bullpen session for Renyel Pinto, who is on the DL with a left hip strain. Pinto, who has been on the DL since Thursday, is expected to pitch in rehab assignment games this weekend at Class A Jupiter.

Worth noting
The Marlins' bullpen gave up its first homer in 23 games on Wednesday, a solo shot by pitcher Yovani Gallardo in the seventh inning.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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