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Johnson clears one-year hurdle in Tommy John recovery

SAN DIEGO -- There was nary a player to be found inside the home clubhouse at Petco Park on Tuesday afternoon, as all of them had gathered behind or near the batting cage.

Well before batting practice, Padres players, coaches and general manager A.J. Preller gathered to see pitcher Josh Johnson throw a two-inning simulated game, an important and significant step in his return from April 2014 Tommy John surgery.

When Johnson was finished, after 40 pitches, his teammates cheered and clapped.

"I'm thankful for my teammates coming out there," he said. "That was awesome."

For the first time in a long time -- Johnson last appeared in a big league game on Aug. 6, 2013 -- he felt like a real player again.

"This shows that I'm getting pretty close," Johnson said, smiling.

Johnson will likely head to the Padres' Spring Training facility in Arizona on Monday for another simulated game. The team could then decide where and when his Minor League rehabilitation will begin.

Johnson's rehabilitation stint, with one of the team's Minor League affiliates, can go for 30 days -- and he'll likely need all of that to build his pitch count and endurance, manager Bud Black said.

"He's still got to cross those bridges," Black said.

As for Tuesday, Johnson threw all of his pitches to a handful of Padres hitters. He worked out of the windup as well as the stretch.

Johnson, who also had Tommy John surgery in 2007, had his most recent surgery on April 24 last season. He started his throwing program on Oct. 9 at his home in Las Vegas. He hit all of his marks during his rehabilitation without a hiccup.

"It's gone as well as it possibly could," he said. "As far as quickness, the first six months were the toughest because you're not throwing. When you start throwing, you can tell you're getting stronger. … And when you start throwing, it goes a lot quicker."

Johnson, who is 31, has been patient throughout his recovery. Having had the surgery previously, he understood the role tolerance plays in the long and sometimes tedious road to recovery.

"I've been through it before, so I was trying not to get too far ahead of myself," Johnson said. "It's a long process. You've got to take everything with a grain of salt, not look too far ahead … or count how many days until you come back. You just worry about today."

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