The Florida Marlins ace allowed one run in 3w innings Monday against the Atlanta Braves and was pleased with his progress.
"It takes me a while," Johnson said. "Finally one pitch felt really good, and I was like, 'There we go.' Then things fall into place and I don't have to think about it."
Johnson gave up five runs in his only previous spring start and surrendered a run to the Braves in the first inning. He shut them out after that, giving up three hits and one walk while throwing 67 pitches.
Bryan Petersen drove in a run in the 10th inning to give Florida a 4-3 victory.
Johnson was the National League ERA champion last season, but he sat out the final month because of back and shoulder problems, and he was annoyed about his rough outing last week.
"It's not going to come right away, but I was frustrated for sure," he said. "You don't want to go out there and look like that. I was a lot better today."
Tim Hudson started for the Braves and allowed one run in three innings. He gave up four hits and walked two but said pitching with runners on base wasn't all bad.
"Obviously you like clean innings, but it's good this time of year to have situations where you need to bear down and make pitches and get out of jams," Hudson said. "They don't count for much, but it's nice to get that kind of situation where you have to turn it up a little bit. You definitely don't want the first time you get in a jam to be during the season."
Former Braves infielder Omar Infante had two hits off Hudson.
"He needs to make the club over there, so I tried to help him out," Hudson said with a smile. Infante is certain of a starting job.
The game was the first against the Marlins for Fredi Gonzalez since they fired him last June. Now the manager of the Braves, Gonzalez said he had no hard feelings about his time with Florida.
"Good memories," he said. "The first time I got to manage a team was here, so it's good. And I get another opportunity. Not very many people get one; I've gotten two. I feel blessed."
Atlanta's Nate McLouth hit his first home run of spring training off Leo Nunez. Freddie Freeman went 3 for 3 and is batting .458.