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MIA@PHI: Johnson roughed up by the Phillies

The opening month of Josh Johnson's 2011 season was the sort pitchers dream about. This April has played out more like a nightmare for the Marlins right-hander so far, but Johnson will have a chance to turn things around Tuesday night when Miami opens a three-game series against the Cubs at Marlins Park.

Johnson (0-2, 8.38 ERA) will face former Marlins All-Star Ryan Dempster (0-1, 1.88) in his first outing against the Cubs since Aug. 15, 2008. He'll be looking to give the 4-6 Marlins a boost in manager Ozzie Guillen's return from a five-game suspension.

Johnson's first two starts have stood in stark contrast to the six he put together last April, when he surrendered a total of four earned runs on 18 hits. Right shoulder inflammation ended Johnson's season in May, and his return has been rocky thus far.

In outings against the Cardinals and Phillies, Johnson has lasted a total of 9 2/3 innings, allowing nine earned runs on 21 hits, with only five strikeouts. Those performances have left him searching for answers.

"I looked at some video of last year and this year and my timing mechanism that I've always had wasn't quite there," Johnson said. "It's something really little, but it means a lot for my rhythm, my tempo and everything else. I worked on it a lot in my last bullpen. Hopefully I can stay away from those bad habits that I was doing and just let it go."

The Marlins and Cubs split their six games in 2011, but Chicago Cubs won both at Sun Life Stadium. Miami has dropped five straight home games to Chicago overall, going back to Aug. 8, 2009.

This will be the Cubs' first trip to the new Marlins Park, which has developed an early reputation for favoring pitchers. The first four regular-season games in the stadium have yielded 32 total runs, including 15 from the Marlins, who got their first two home runs in the park from Omar Infante and Hanley Ramirez on Sunday.

"It sounds like it's huge, it sounds like it's really big," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "The gaps are huge, just watching a little bit of the games I've watched. There have been some balls crushed that are outs. They have some speed.

"It turns into a triples ballpark, so that's one of the things you have to be aware of. Balls in the gap are triples, not doubles, and you have to be aware of that and try to eliminate the slugging percentage, especially early in the inning when there's no outs or one out."

Cubs: Support lacking for Dempster
Dempster has held the opposition to three earned runs on seven hits in 14 1/3 innings over his first two starts, with six walks and 15 strikeouts.

Unfortunately for the veteran right-hander, he has faced the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg and the Brewers' Yovani Gallardo, both of whom have shut down the Cubs' bats. Chicago has lost both games, 2-1.

Dempster, 34, broke into the Major Leagues with the then-Florida Marlins in 1998 and pitched for the team until it traded him to the Reds in July 2002. In 16 games against his former club, including six stars, Dempster is 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA.

• This series will not pit the Cubs against former teammate Carlos Zambrano, after he took a no-decision in the Marlins' loss to the Astros on Saturday, leaving him 0-0 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts.

Chicago dealt Zambrano to Miami on Jan. 5, along with cash, for pitcher Chris Volstad. That ended the big right-hander's successful but sometimes tumultuous tenure in Chicago, which included 125 wins and a 3.60 ERA but concluded with him on the disqualified list following a blowup in Atlanta on Aug. 12.

"He was a teammate of mine for a lot of years," Dempster said. "He's a good person and was a good friend to me. I'm excited to see him and glad we won't have to face him because I know how good he can be."

Marlins: Ozzie-less no more
Tuesday will mark Guillen's return to the bench after the Marlins handed their new skipper a five-game suspension for remarks he made about Cuba's Fidel Castro. Bench coach Joey Cora managed Miami to a 2-3 record during Guillen's absence.

Sveum is bracing for the added attention he expects to accompany Guillen's first game back.

"There's definitely going to be added press and media and questions," he said. "It's an unfortunate incident that happened and hopefully it goes away pretty quick, but it's not going to go away when we're there."

• Infante returned to the Marlins' lineup in style on Sunday after the team held him out on Saturday with a sore groin.

Infante isn't known as a power hitter, but in the second inning, he hit a pitch from Astros pitcher J.A. Happ over the left-field fence for the Marlins' first home run at their new ballpark. That set off the colorful 75-foot sculpture the team placed beyond the fence.

Worth noting
• Johnson's two career starts against the Cubs are his fewest against any National League team.

• Emilio Bonifacio's eight-game hit streak was snapped on Sunday, when he went 0-for-4 with two walks. That dropped his batting average to .316. Comments