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Padres decline option on JJ, but return possible

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres have declined their option on right-handed pitcher Josh Johnson for 2015, but that doesn't necessarily close the door on him returning to San Diego.

The Padres held a $4 million option on Johnson, who will turn 31 in January, a stipulation in the contract that he signed last winter with the team if he made seven or fewer starts in 2014.

Johnson never threw a pitch during the regular season after he needed Tommy John surgery in April after a promising showing early in Spring Training.

Johnson could return to the team, though, as he and the Padres are said to be willing to work out a lesser deal for 2015.

Earlier this month, Johnson spoke glowingly about his time in San Diego and the type of treatment that he received, not just medically, but from the entire organization. He also expressed interest in coming back at that time.

"I look at [my time in San Diego] as unfinished business," Johnson said. "It has been very tough to sit here and watch it all. But I think I've actually learned more this year than any other years in the past put together.

"And as far as the organization goes, I couldn't have hoped for anything better. They've been amazing. Not just the training staff, either, but everyone here ... there's been a lot of support."

Johnson started his post-surgery throwing program on Oct. 9 near his home in Las Vegas. This was the second Tommy John surgery for Johnson, who had the procedure in 2007, three years before he led the National League in ERA (2.30) pitching for the Marlins.

The Padres signed Johnson to a one-year deal worth $8 million last offseason, with hopes of bolstering their starting rotation. He threw well in his first few appearances in Spring Training in February before feeling soreness in the elbow area.

Johnson remained in San Diego during his rehabilitation period and dressed in uniform for nearly every home game. He watched nearly every bullpen session before each game and soaked up as much as he could from pitching coach Darren Balsley, too.

"Watching the bullpens and listening to Bals, he's really, really good," Johnson said. "... Everyone learns differently and people have certain words that click differently for them. He knows how to talk to each person. It could be a little key or something else that goes a long ways with them."

Johnson could have opportunities to sign elsewhere, but new general manager A.J. Preller sounded optimistic earlier this month when he was asked if there was a chance of Johnson returning.

"With Josh, he's a guy that everyone has a positive feel for," Preller said. "We'll try to go down the road with him and try to present something to him that makes sense to him."

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.
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